Roshan bint Raheem
HYDERABAD: Come Ramadan and the children become more active. It is time to play and enjoy. But for a lot more of them, it is time to help their parents to earn a few more bucks.
Children in Hyderabad, as young as 8 years old, have filled the bazaars. They are not there to enjoy the Hubble bubble but to use their soft voice and little hands to sell goods.
As the Ramadan is getting closer to its last ten days, the business activity in the markets has heightened. More people in the market means more sellers. And, ironically in the bazaars, it also means more children slogging out, either alone or with their parents.
Mohammad Ayaz is only 10 years old. A third standard student at a government school, he wanted to enjoy summer holidays as his school was closed. But that becomes a luxury which he cannot afford. His parents who are small vendors need his assistance. They have put up a tiny temporary dupatta stall near Charminar for him to work at.
Ayaz who lives in Talabkatta walks to Charminar every day. He works under the scorching sun and goes empty stomach for long hours. But when he confronts a customer he has a smile on his face. “Buy it khala, it is nice,” he would tell a woman customer.
When asked about how much does he earn per day he says, “I am not sure. Maybe 200 and 300 rupees a day.”
It is amazing that in spite of his dire poverty he wishes to pursue his education and one day become a police officer. Says he with a glint in his eyes, “sab bahut sunte police walon ki… aur darte bhi aur izzat dete” (everybody listens to a policeman… they are scared of them and respect them too). So many dreams in his tiny eyes and a huge smile. But his journey ahead looks too hard.
Will he able to accomplish what he wishes?
At around Charminar, there are also young boys who have spread out sheets and place their wares over them. They are selling flowerpots, jewelry, shoes, bangles, etc.
Taufeeq is a bigger boy. He is 16 years old and lives in Jhirra with his parents. He is selling handbags and suitcases. His father is with him. The 7th standard student is uneasy in responding to small queries. However, on insistence, he responds, “I come to work with my father around 10 in the morning. There is no set time for going back home. The shoppers come until past midnight…I don’t know why people buy bags and suitcases in Ramadan but they do. We are doing fairly good business.”
Taufeeq’s father Mohd Razzaq says, “I want my son to study and be a successful person. I didn’t have the chance to study. Poverty has forced me to make my children work. I feel miserable but can’t do anything.”
Ayaz and Taufeeq are among numerous kids who are forced to spend their childhood working like older men and women. Their dreams are stifled and broken because there are no alternatives. One can see a sample of their miserable lives at the historic Charminar.
P. Santosh, a police officer, is saddened at the sight of these children. Says he, “We cannot help as these kids come along with their parents or elders to work. Some of them might be coming alone too. If we take them away from their livelihood, it would be a great sin. And when we allow them to work we are depriving them of routine. We are caught between our duty and the realities of life.”