One fine day, I was on my way back to home from college. As the rickshaw stand was crowded I decided to take a bus which halts near my residence. My stomach growled with hunger. So before boarding the bus, I stopped at small tea kiosk located near the bus stand for a Vada Pav and tea.
At the kiosk, I found a young, fragile boy, barely in his teens, taking up orders from other customers. He had a loose, torn and rugged vest on with stained blue shorts. As he moved across the cots placed before the stall, somehow my sight caught his attention.
I called out to him,"Chhotu, come here!".
He hurried towards me holding a short, soiled cloth upon his left shoulder," Ha didi, kya logey? (Yes Sister, what do you want)".
"Get me a Vada Pav and a cup of tea, quick!" He nodded and charged towards a man on the kiosk who was supposed to be the owner of the stall, making tea.
Then he read out my order to him and retired to have a seat on one of the vacant cots over there.
My eyes were only following his activities and movement as I noticed how he played with that duster cloth, coiling it up to his wrist and releasing the grip, repeatedly.
That was when a rude man spilled his cup of tea on the cot and almost yelled to turn everyone deaf, "Somebody clean up this mess! Here chhotey, ye saaf kar chal! (Hey Kid, clean this mess quick)" The poor boy panicked at his alarm and sprinted to the shrieking man. He followed his instructions and started cleaning the spot, meticulously with his small hands. After finishing up with this, he jogged to the washbasin next to the kiosk to rinse the duster and wash his hands.
Then again he returned to the same cot he had been on. This time there was no duster to swing and fling, but only his helpless eyes which looked up to every customer at the stall with hope. A hope that someone might offer him anything to eat, or even a cup of tea. He watched a small girl seated diagonally opposite to his cot eating away a Vada Pav which her father fed and I was constantly engaged in watching him.
He had a frowning smile on his face coupled with a completely blank expression. How much had he longed to have anything sober to eat? At his age, children are busy completing their home-works and playing all evening and here was this boy, serving a kiosk, selling tea.
I felt sympathetic for him and called him,"Chhotu idhar aa! (Kid, come here)" He trotted towards me tugging his vest down. "Get my order quick, and get a Vada Pav for yourself too, also a tea if you wish. I'm paying for you".
The moment these words fell out of my mouth his lips were separated with a huge grin and his eyes gleamed with joy as if he was anticipating me to order for him. He announced to me happily, "Main adrak wali chai piyunga! (I will take a ginger tea)" and soon brought us the eateries. We sat by on the same cot, and by now I had almost forgotten about my hunger as I watched this poor soul sipping tea and savoring its taste, gratefully between the bites of the Vada Pav. I wonder how much this treat meant to him!
I finished my tea as soon as I could since I had to make it to the queue before the bus arrived and stood up to leave. "Ja rahe ho? Phir aate rehna! (You are going? Visit here soon)" said he, with a blushing smile and eyes shrunken out of joy.
I waved him bye and joined the queue. Until I had reached home, his words kept playing like a song in my pinna, "Aap ke liye special chai lata hoon! (I'm bringing a special tea for you)" and the idea of a social evil like 'Child Labour' kept bothering me as I tried to digest the inevitable with a poker face.