90 x 127 cm
oil on canvas
Hanging back is Kayum, with so much sadness in his eyes. Earlier I had witnessed his reunion with his mother. She stood patiently, arm protectively around his shoulders, as the paperwork was studied. Every day parents like his come to the Ashram, crying, desperate to get their children back. But BBA are legally obliged to follow procedures. Many parents are genuine but some, like the ‘uncle’ who claimed the small boy with a high pitched voice was 18, are imposters in the pay of the factory owners, anxious to get their skilled little workers back.
Eleven year old Kayum’s story is sadly typical. Born in poverty in a remote village in Uttar Pradesh, he had studied up to year 4 in school until his ‘uncle’ convinced his parents that he
would have better opportunities and a good education in Delhi. But the education and opportunities were all a lie. He was taken to work in a factory making leather handbags, sticking the bags together and pressing card into the bags to make their shape. He knew there were other children in the huge factory building but in his room he was the only child living with nine adults. In return for working from 9am until midnight he received 50 rupees/week (about 50p).
When I ask him what he wants to be in life he says, ‘to become a good man, to go back to school and train to be a teacher’. It was a good thing to be rescued but he wants to go home.