A few days ago, I had an incredible experience which is really worth mentioning. My brother did really well in his exam. So, we thought of celebrating his success in a very befitting manner. Accordingly, we went to a nearby sweet shop to buy some sweets. Thinking for a while, we selected one which has a good name. As we entered, we were given a warm reception, and asked what type of sweets and how much we would need. Since we wanted to celebrate his success in a grand manner, we ordered a good amount. The front display did not have more than a few kilograms. We needed more. He assured us that he had a lot of sweets being prepared in the back side of his shop and also requested us to wait for a few minutes while sweets were being soaked in sugar syrup. We were convinced. Then he went outside for five minutes. Out of curiosity, we went towards the backside of his shop. To my utter surprise, we found that the condition where our sweetmeats were being prepared was far from hygienic. We found a boy of not more than 10-year-old, soaking sweets in the syrup with his hands. The boy had a runny nose and he was sneezing time and again. He was working, sneezing and clearing his noise simultaneously. It was really a horrible scenario. It was not the boy who is liable for that situation, but the owner who found him as a cheap labour. Since our kamrangirchar area is still a poverty stricken area, poor people have no other way but to employ their wards at any work - be it a sweetmeat store or polythene collecting. Meanwhile, the owner got back and started rebuking the boy for being late in his work. He did this to convince us that he actually was trying to serve us as soon as possible. He behaved as if we had been his most valuable customers. As the boy started crying aloud in the back where he was working, the owner this time got very angry. He went inside and again rebuked the boy. Seeing the whole scenario I got really hurt. The boy was so young. He should have been in school with other boys. Now the owner applied another trick. Addressing the boy as his nephew, he slowly placed his right hand over his shoulder he patted his head and started convincing the boy in the most polite way trying to cool down the situation. We felt pity for the poor boy. At last when our sweets were ready, we went inside to bid the boy farewell. The boy was looking very sad while he was murmuring a song. I remembered one of the best poems of William Blake 'Chimney Sweeper' and was lost in the thought for a while. My brother gently pushed me and broke my sweet imagination. I wish I could bid farewell to child labour forever instead of bidding farewell to the poor boy! I know how painful it is to work at such a tender age since I was also a child labourer at one stage of my life. My brother didn't have to see those painful days since he was five years younger than me. I cannot forget the boy's crying "I will go back to my mother. Let me go." I ask myself, "Will the society let the boy go back to his mother?" What if he goes back to his mother? His mother will probably send him back to his “uncle” to be well trained in acquiring life skills to survive.
Md. Abir Hossain
Department of English