(This story was first published on 12 June 2016 and has been reposted from The Quint’s to mark the World Day Against Child Labour)
“I want to be a doctor,” said Ajodhya Prasad, an 8-year-old working at a roadside juice stall in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. “I don’t enjoy making juice.”
There are other kids like Ajodhya, employed in laborious jobs, who wish to break away from their current roles and be someone they dream to be. So what are their dreams? Hear them out.
As soon as we started talking to Ajodhya, and he shared his dream of becoming a doctor and studying further, his uncle interjected. “He’s on his school break and therefore just helping me out,” Ajodhya’s uncle told us. “Nobody’s going to be an officer or a doctor. They can work hard and do other work,” he added.
Evident in Ajodhya’s uncle’s words were the harsh realities of a million other under-aged, yet overworked children. Some of them toiling in the sun for over 8-10 hours. We talked to a few more children.
Sunny saw a few ‘businessmen’ on TV and has been hooked ever since. He likes their uber-rich and comfortable lifestyle. Sunny also likes sitting at his roadside cart because he can see his favourite cars from there. He says he tries to study whenever he can. When quizzed on who’ll sell water here if he becomes a businessman, Sunny responded with a smile, “My servants will manage this.”
Naresh almost fought for my attention. He sells pens in Connaught Place, New Delhi. Selling at Rs 5 per pen, he manages to earn Rs 200 in a day. Whatever he earns, he gives it to his mother. Naresh dreams to be an officer, because an officer gets ‘money’. He doesn’t go to school, but says he’ll become an officer when he grows up.
Sanjay is street-smart. He started crying when I refused to buy any more pens, but the very next moment he started pouting for the camera, then started crying again. Sanjay also sells pen, and thinks “everybody sells water when they grow up” so he has a similar dream of selling water one day at the bus stop.
Dildaar wants to become the next Yo Yo Honey Singh, but he’s a bit camera shy. His friends told us that he’s a big comedian, but he told us no jokes. Dildaar earns somewhere between Rs 400-500 everyday by polishing boots. And yes, he can sing too.
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