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S’pot’ the difference! Pic: Divya Sreedharan
One of the boys in the photograph above, is a Transformers lover, he makes paper planes, he goes to school, he attends birthday parties and playdates. And he loves going to the park to play in the sand. That boy is my son. Let’s call him MS (my son).
The other boy is a little bit older, but not much bigger in build. He too goes to school. In fact, he is in class 5. But he is not a ‘child’ any more. He also works on the weekends, to help out his parents. He is a potter’s son and a pretty good potter himself. What’s more, he is a patient teacher. Let’s call him PB (Potter’s Boy).
How do I know that? Because we met him last Sunday. When he gave MS a pottery lesson.
For Rs 20, he sat MS down on a plastic stool in front of him, showed him how the potter’s wheel is spun, how to gently shape the clay into a recognisable ‘pot’ shape, define the sides, thin out the mouth, so on and so forth. The lesson lasted a few minutes. Then PB briskly pointed to a bucket of water kept to one side and told MS to wash his hands. And MS, being an obedient boy, did so. The pottery lesson was over.
PB doesn’t hand out keepsakes, for free. He cannot afford to, naturally. And while he doesn’t mind people watching him work the wheel, he would rather you paid.
Anti-child labour campaigners will cry hoarse of course, and shout that this child is being exploited. But there are worse things that could happen to him–he is not begging or soliciting, besides. And let’s face it, our city is full of working children. We choose to turn a blind eye to the children working as cleaners and washing-up boys in hotels and darshinis, the raggedy kids begging at traffic junctions, selling knick knacks and roses on the streets, working as childminders, nannies and servants, the children found in garages/scrap yards… And that is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
At least PB is doing something he cares about. And he goes to school. He is working, using his skills to earn some extra money, for himself and for his family. So he has my respect. And yes, if I meet him again, I will book a pottery lesson… for myself.
Besides, looking at the photograph above, can you tell the children apart?
Their clothes are virtually identical. Their circumstances couldn’t be more different.