It was a bright Saturday afternoon, and I was on the way to the mall with my mom. About a decade or two back, malls were only beginning to come up in metropolitan cities, so there was a certain fancy attached to them. Peak summers with a high of 45 degrees, and windows rolled up to let the air conditioner do its job, I was blissful in my own right.
Just then, we halted at a red light, and a young boy, almost as old as I was back then, came up to my window. He had pens of every color with him, and I was suddenly excited by the sight of those pens. At the time, it didn’t matter to me that it was a child selling those pens, I was just happy to look at them. I asked my mom if we could get some, but she just said that we’ll buy something from the mall. And that was the end of the conversation.
Having always been inquisitive, I later reflected on the incident, and I instantly asked my mother if we knew people who also sell things like that. Though I was quite sure that no one in my peer group ever had. My mother tried to explain to me how not everyone was born equal- “Some people are more fortunate than others”, she said. But I being I, was not satisfied with that explanation.
The following week as I went back to school, I recounted the entire experience to my social science teacher. She smiled at me, and asked me to come see her after my lunch break ended- it was time for a chat.
As we began talking, the term ‘child labor’ was first introduced to my vocabulary.
As we spent some more time talking, words like ‘privileged’ and ‘underprivileged’ were also added to my knowledge storehouse. This is when it hit me what my mom really meant when she made that comment. But it was still a few years until I gathered my sensibilities.
It’s been a while since that difference has been actualised for me. And I found my own ways to make a difference. But grand sayings aside, it takes more than a person or even a few handful of people to make a difference. Of course, every action sets off another one, but on a meta-level, nothing less than a revolution needs to be at play.
What we need, is to educate ourselves and the people around us. It’s important to have empathy because, in all honesty, we truly cannot choose where we’re born. While it’s good to thank our fortune if we can send our child to a top-tier school, it’s just as necessary to ensure that our child feels thankful too. But in order for that to happen, we need to educate our children on what they’re thankful for – because that’ll be starting point of change- in any country around the world!
(Smile Foundation’s Child for Child program is an initiative in the same spirit, which impacts and sensitizes 1.2 million young minds across 5000 schools in 417 districts of India.)