The invisible workforce

Corinne’s comment on my last post made me dig this one out from my archives and post it again. For domestic child labour is a topic that will never go out of the news, view or conscience, for that matter. Among my other posts, this was one  that I felt didn’t get the views it should have when I first posted it. We would rather avoid reading about uncomfortable truths and instead look for lighter stuff to amuse ourselves with.And after the previous post, this one seemed like a logical continuation of the topic.

Child domestic workers are distinct from their other counterparts in industries, including hazardous ones and for this reason, they are relatively less visible and so escape detection.We don’t even have proper statistical data on them.

So why are they so abundant in our country? The reasons are many : They come cheaper than their adult counter­parts. They are more sincere and work faster too. Moreover, they don’t give cheek and can be browbeaten easily. Little wonder, then that the well-to-do employ these children at a fraction of what domestic workers get paid. ‘I would never think of employing a child, but what can I do? Getting a maid is so hard and I have no time to do all the work before I rush off to work!’ says one woman, who works in a bank.

Take the case of Raghav — a boy of about 11, who had been `brought’ from the village to help the lady of the house, since she had a heart problem. A lively boy, who might otherwise have gone to the village school and played marbles in his spare time, he is kept engaged from morning till night doing jobs like cleaning the house, washing vessels, etc. The lady has a son of the same age, who of course has nothing more to do than play, go to school and order Raghav about.

How do people like the above, justify employing these small chil­dren? ‘We are providing food and bed for Raghav. In fact, his parents were begging me to take him away, so that at least one child would have enough to eat,’ says his employer.  They actually believe that the exploitation is a noble way of helping a poor child!

Tender hands scrubbing the floor

‘We treat him/her like a member of our family,’ they say smugly. Oh yeah?

In that case do these `employers’ give these children the ice creams and other goodies that their own children get? Do they not make them bring crates of soft drinks and not give them a bottle? Well, maybe just a bottle. Do they not walk ahead like royalty, while the poor kids lug huge bags of grocer­ies and vegetables and fruits, which they may hardly get a bite of? Do they allow the children, hardly older than their own children to sleep late?

Once, when I was standing at a juice shop, I saw an obviously wealthy woman, with several chins wobbling on her face, order a fruit juice.  The little boy who was accompanying her, struggling with a couple of bulging shopping bags was eyeing the glass hungrily, secretly smacking his lips, while the woman drank her juice.  I secretly bought him a glass when the lady was busy talking on her phone. It wrenched my heart to see him gulp it down before being caught.

Would this lady have thought about making her eight-year-old son carry the shopping bags? This is not to say that doing honest housework or even making your children do small chores around the house is wrong. In fact, that helps them realise the worth of labour and help around the house. But the sense of pro­portion is lost the moment it is someone else’ child and whom you have employed as a servant. Does a child suddenly become able to do the work of an adult, just because he or she is poor?

If such self-professed do-gooders want to really help these children, why not take care of their needs and educate them? Most of these very affluent families who employ these children will not feel the pinch of feeding and taking care of one more child. Then why not do it, instead of acting magnanimous about `provid­ing shelter and food’ to a needy child, while getting the maximum work out of him?

And who decides that the child is not capable of doing something better? Did anyone ask them if he/she wants to study, or play or just do plain old mischief like a normal child? I do agree that it is grinding poverty that makes the parents of these little children send them away for a monthly salary or a lump-sum given at the time of `transaction’. But how can an educated populace agree to the transaction without qualms? There was a spate of stories where such child maids and mundus were starved, beaten and even sexually harassed

It is wrenching to see such a little boy look after the needs of the `children’ of the employer, who are much older than him as in the above case. If and when the employer’s child is younger than him, he is not allowed to play with the expensive toys and games of his little `master’. I have heard women remark with shock at his `audacity’ to touch the expensive and often imported stuff. Makes one wonder if we have at all come out of the slave era. Does money kill human kindness and make one so insensitive?

While the voluntary organisations are screaming themselves hoarse over the children employed in various industries and professions, why have they decided to overlook these children working in the houses of the affluent? Have they gone to see for themselves how many hours these children are made to work, where they sleep, what they eat? Do they ever get leave, vacations? `If you send them home, they will not come back!’ shudder the society matrons to each other during kitty parties. Do they get paid decent wages or are their parents paid a lump sum when they are left with them — in other words, when they `buy’ them? An estimated 12 percent of children in India in the age-group of 5-14 are engaged in child labor and An estimated 185,595 children are employed as domestic help, according to a UNICEF study.

The figure seems absurdly low considering these child workers are employed on the sly by families and many a time passed off as relative’s child who has come to live with them.

How often are these children physically abused? Female servants are known to be sexually abused for years with no way to escape the horror..Young boys fare no better. Seeing children his own age wallow in luxury, while he himself is being made to work to make it possible, can put tre­mendous pressure on the little psyches. In addition, if he is physically abused, it makes the burden harder to bear. In a recent news report, a servant who had been fired and then rehired by a family, killed the lady of the house because he ‘wanted to take revenge for her humiliating and hitting me.’ It is not hard to imagine how petty and sometimes big criminals are being created. There has been a spate of stories about such children in recent times. We are shocked for a while and then go on with our lives.

Have we lost our collective conscience where these children are concerned? Do they have to languish in relative anonymity, unlike those in organised industries, who come into public gaze more often than them? Just because they don’t inhale toxic fumes, work in hazardous conditions, should they be left out of the category of child workers?

A child is a child, no matter if she is born in a slum or in a palace. She deserves the best. So if you cannot give her the best, at least do not let her have the worst. Or is it asking too much?

And each of us can do something for these children in some way. Sponsor a child’s education, seeing that the children of our maids complete at least school, volunteer our time to teach them….


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  1. A relevant and very succinct post. I have seen many child labors around my place and have talked some neighbors out of it. The threat of filing complaint was my biggest weapon. I just wish people realize this one their own and don’t need anyone to point it out.

    btw, I don’t know why but I am not getting any updates when you post something new.


    1. So the threat of filing a complaint worked, did it? But what about their attitude towards you after that? Bikram has recounted how he was banned from visiting them after he did that 🙂

      If you are subscribed through google connect you might not be getting updates, since mine is a wordpress blog, please subscribe again either in the reader or through mail, will you please, Jas? I am so sorry about it.


      1. I am looked at as an outcast often but it really doesn’t matter to me now. 🙂

        I am trying again. Let’s see if I get it.


        1. I would have thought so! People can not only be callous, but also brazen about such things. And I do hope you can subscribe. Do let me know if you are not able to.


  2. A really hard hitting post that brings out the harsh realities of our hypocritical society where words are always louder than actions! There can be no sin crueler than making a child work for you or your children. It is like sapping the soul out of their lives. And to justify that by saying that they are doing a noble thing is something beyond a sin.

    As you rightly said, this kind of child labor leads to several social issues: it makes these kids depressed and unstable and even violent. On the other hand, the wealthy children become so selfish and whimsical that they want everything done with a snap of their fingers. And in the future, they will have the potential of taking this evil to the next level.

    Though I am doing my miniscule bit by educating a couple of children, I believe the true solution to the problem is when the rich start understanding the value of childhood and abandon their so called noble acts of feeding them. They should try and feed and nurture the child inside if they can.

    “A child is a child, no matter if she is born in a slum or in a palace. She deserves the best. So if you cannot give her the best, at least do not let her have the worst”. Brilliantly said! A post of extreme importance!


    1. As you have pointed out, child labour is a two-edged sword that dehumanises one set of children and makes the other set selfish and insensitive. And before the rich begin to understand that they are doing a heinous crime, fish will be flying. We need a government that takes its role as one seriously and bring about changes in the social milieu in order to help the poor. And not just bring in half-baked schemes like RTE which is beginning to backfire badly if news stories of poor children being victimised is anything to go by. How about building a school in every locality or and staffing them with sincere teachers instead? But no, that would take away their hard looted money, wouldn’t it?


  3. I have seen this happen in real life. Some relatives of mine, got a ‘mumdu’ from the village, who would do the household chores because the lady of the house was terminally ill. Even through there were enough family members to keep the house up and running, the burden fell on little shoulders, who were not even capable of handling it.

    And then, the constant ordering began. Poor child, he was not given a waking spare minute. He was made to rise early, and was the last to go to bed. The kids of the house were big, but immature and kept the poor child, always on his toes, even if it was for a glass of water 😦

    I remember I tried talking to the child, but he was too afraid to let out what he was feeling. He was mute mostly, just following orders and getting abuses for everything which went wrong, when actually the expectation of the family was wrong.

    Thank God, the child had a sudden sprout of courage, and ran away. Hope he found a better future…


    1. This is usually the case where children are employed in homes. They sleep last, wake up first, and often make do on leftovers and stale food and share the kitchen with the rats and cockroaches at night. The child might or might not have escaped the hell, because we have heard of them getting sucked into the underbelly of the cities for worse fates. Oh, if someone could just erase poverty with a magic wand or eraser!


  4. Zephyr, such a superb post after your last one! You write so well–your words have maximum impact. You draw out discussions which are powerful. After reading the post and all the comments, I wonder what do I have to contribute to this discussion? Nothing…child labor exists–in various forms. We dehumanize some children because they are born of poor/no parents. We care not for their pain. We live an easy life.
    One of my first pieces of writing emerged at the age of 8 on seeing a girl of my age going to work as a domestic help as I went to school. I still remember that moment in that road when I stared at her and realized our difference and I asked why was this happening. I did not know about child labor then…I only knew that I was going to school, and she my reflection went to work and I did not know why.
    To love every child as your own takes detachment, takes a little less focus on one’s own life and family…but isn’t the consciousness rising? Aren’t we talking about it while before we did not as much?


    1. Oh Bhavana, it was so compassionate of the eight year old you to have wondered about the differences between the child worker and you! I can imagine how that girl grew up into the wonderful woman who is doing so much for the less privileged today. Yes, we need sensitive children who feel for the poor kids to grow up and do something to ease their conditions. We try to assuage our guilt of enjoying an easy life by doing little things for them, but is it enough? You are right, we have begun talking, but when will we be able to see them all enjoy life like normal children?


  5. WHat do i say to this one. I did not understand it at all, till i came to uk, WE too had some help and Now thankfully No kid works as help in our house and neither in the 10 others that are in our village, slowly it is going away.

    child labour is everywhere, what is that we hire to look after out kids as maid’s .. they are child too and we see SO MANY of them ..

    I have been banned to come to a few of my relatives house because I spoke against it and yet they are some of the ones who are well respected in the society.. basically mam we are hypocrite people thats all I will say ..


    1. No Bikram, it is not going away, but is becoming invisible — to us, the authorities and the people who employ them. But is is good that your village has come out of this trap. I can imagine you standing up and telling those people off for having children work in their homes 🙂 Yes, we are indeed the biggest hypocrites.


  6. Abhor child labor. That is why one of my goals is to fully support a home that shelters children, raises them with love and helps them lead a normal life.

    It is so hard to understand how someone with their own children can ill treat other children. The workings of the human mind is crazy, to say the least.

    I watch this program called Crime Patrol which reports real cases – and the ones about children are – chilling and very very scary.


    1. Real cases of exploitation only serve to send these criminals underground for a time and then they resurface again. Vidur is a compassionate child indeed since he is being raised to be one. And I know of your efforts towards rehabilitating these children. We need thousands, nay, millions like you Vidya so that we can make a difference.


  7. This is a very sad state of affair. There are so many children working like this and the educated people hire them.
    When i was pregnant with my daughter, i was advised by some of colleagues to employ a girl to look after the baby. They themselves had already done that. Why? because a girl will never talk back, if you employ a woman in her 20s, 30s or 40s she will answer you back.
    I could never digest what they said, my hubby and i were very clear about this thing, that we don’t want to hire a little girl to look after our baby. How can we sit and see a little child work for us?


    1. Sorry for replying this comment so late, Techie2mom. You were indeed very wise not to agree to the suggestion of employing a girl to take care of your baby. It is very cruel if you ask me. Unless we can treat them like one of our children, one should never take in a child into the home. By our own, I mean giving them everything like food, clothes and education to them. But that would make it an adoption, right? And so we have these people employing them and justifying it as doing a good deed to help a poor family.


  8. Doing that to little kids is nothing short of inhuman.

    My dad’s place has never employed anyone less than 15. It’s mostly a boy for help around the house. And at the end of staying maybe 2-3 years, dad gets him a job as a driver or whatever else possible elsewhere. And at the home, it’s always the other way round. We provide them so many good things… money, gadgets…that they become spoilt and start fighting with us instead 😛 LOL Yes believe it or not, it’s the other extreme.

    When I got married and had part-time help come over (it’s just my husband and me in the house), we had two people (sisters) come in for help with cooking and cleaning – both in their twenties/thirties. When the girl for cooking could not make it because of her delivery, she sent her niece to cook instead for a few days. That girl was 20 years old (an age where you are almost old enough to be earning yourself), but still behaved like a kid. She was forgetful at times (even calling me up to say she forgot whether she switched off the gas or not before leaving home!!!), did only half of what she was told, and shirked work on some days. I finally told my regular part-time help to take her back. Did not scold but just explained the situation. Someone older would know the pain of running a house and would also be more responsible. At 20, I was still in college, having a gala time, with no worries about the world at large. I did not have the heart to scold this girl and tell her to take her work seriously. She can do all that later anyway.

    I agree with you, treating them well is not enough. Why not provide for their education?


    1. Oh, forgot to add. My step-mom’s father is a remarkable person that way.
      They had a part-time help at home who got married and went to start a small-time restaurant with her husband. Unfortunately for her, her husband died soon after due to some medical issues, and she was left 4 months pregnant. No one would offer her help (or even a job) either.

      My grandfather when he came to know of this, called her back to work full-time at our place. Offered her shelter at our home, help with her delivery and education of her son. This was a quarter century back. The woman worked (and continues to work) at their home even today. The son is now an M.A. Economics with distinction…and working with Stan Chart bank. He is pursuing his IAS dreams now. He is a brilliant student so no doubt he will get through. 🙂


    2. Yours is the other extreme indeed 🙂 As I have said in my reply to Kayem, there are still people who actually adopt these children and raise them as their own. But I have also seen cases where the ill-meaning relatives of the child instigates him or her to demand unreasonable privileges and share in property etc. and then throw the employers out. I guess it takes all kinds. But kudos to your grandfather for helping this girl and when they or their children do well in life, one feels as proud of them as one would of one’s own children, right? That is the satisfaction that these so-called ‘benefactors’ don’t get by giving these children a place to stay — and that too at a price!


  9. You have opened my eyes to a problem I didn’t know existed. I can understand the rage you feel at seeing these children made to work while they miss out on their childhoods. You wrote about this so well. Thank you.


    1. Welcome here Myrna. The world is full of injustices but when it concerns the poor and the children in particular, it really affects one, doesn’t it?


  10. It is very sad that these children don’t have the privilege of childhood! As somebody else has pointed out child labour is the result of a lot of socio-economic factors in our country, and those that have will always continue to take advantage of the have-nots. I believe that everyone should do our bit and help in the way we can.


    1. Unfortunately, our little bits will not make a dent in a country as big as ours and with as many poor people. It is indeed due to socio-economic factors, Which is why we need concrete action from the government which should go beyond making insipid laws and make it compulsory for children to have at least a high school education and this should be punishable offence. This of course needs to be bolstered by free midday meals and free books and uniforms too for the parents to be encouraged to send them to study.


  11. Janaki Nagaraj · · Reply

    Yeah…the stories are many. I too had a maid servant, who when absent would send her young daughters to work, until this became a habit and she stopped coming all together. Me and my husband, we both put our foots down and said, its her or some one…we are not going to employ her daughters.
    We kept on stressing on their education, but, the girls themselves were not interested in studies. They were married off very early and by the age of 16 they were mothers !!!
    Wonderful post.


    1. This story is repeated ad nauseam Janaki — the kids not wanting to study. They can’t see the benefits since there is polarisation even in the kind of education the rich and poor get. So they feel it is no use. We have to change our mindsets that education is not a degree but the basic school certificate at least and then on to some vocational course or career. That would make things easier. For instance, in the US, higher education can’t be afforded by everyone but basic school education is free and compulsory. Can’t we do that in our country? Why are we playing politics and introducing 25% quota in private schools, where the differences will make for further trauma for the poor children? Instead put the government schools in order and give a chance for the good students in such schools with a scholarship? As I pointed out to The Fool, education is a great leveler.


  12. Part of the problem lies with the poor people as well. Our household help has 3 sons and 1 daughter. All the 3 sons are useless fellows who sit on their ass while their mother goes out to do menial work at other people’s home. If these people keep producing like this, how many can the middle class take care of? Far from giving anything, the rich want to loot and become wealthier by unfair means. Where is the money in the country to take care of all of them? There are so many mouths to be fed. Even if 3-4 children are fully funded, there will still be 1-2 children left without even what they can earn by child labor. So unless government takes care of all poor children, there will always be children who will be worse of without the jobs.


    1. I understand your disgust at the poor for procreating at such an alarming rate, but even here, there are many who have begun restricting their family size and trying to bring their kids up well. But it is an uphill task for them to do it. With schools being so divided on the basis of money, the kids have no incentive to go to school where the teachers (in government schools) either are not regular or don’t teach them. So they probably feel it would be best to make some money by doing odd jobs. The ultimate leveler is education and unless it is made mandatory and punishable by stringent enforcement, the parents would only take the easy way out and as you point out rightly, the rich will take advantage of them.


  13. Hard hitting, Zephyr. Do you think there might be some “haves” who would let them continue their schooling and ensure they are well clothed, well fed, have thier own bed or bedding and have some time to call their own? Of course that would still not change the fact that it is still child labour. But I feel it would be more acceptable than them being at the mercy of the kind of ‘memsahib’ you describe.


    1. There are indeed a lot of affluent people who actually adopt these children and bring them up as their own. One of my friends grew up with a boy who was an orphan and had been adopted by her mother. This boy was not only educated but treated as one of the family and today when he is married he lives in the house and takes care of her father since the mother passed away. And though he has three daughters, he is comfortable living with this ‘son’ and his wife and the ‘grandchildren’ who adore the grandfather.


  14. I have so many stories of children who have suffered so much abuse at the hands of their employers. Having children working in a home in which you have your own children is so cruel. I have no words…..


    1. Funnily Corinne, those of us who feel empathy are expected to take care of the problem as if to say: you are the one who feels bad, so do something about it! They are indeed the invisible people — the poor — in full view of everyone but not seen by anyone.


  15. A sad plight for the children. The parents want them to earn, and eat well at least, the memsahibas want to load them with work.

    I have seen people ill treat the child laborer – appalling. They are already oppressed, and these people , treat the children so cruelly? .This only shows these heartless people’s character. I shun such people . I feel all their wealth and position has not given them good breeding!

    On the other side, I know of people who take the kids under their wing, educate them and get them jobs, and get them settled in life!

    In fact, one boy, who used to work in someone’s house, refuses even to go home for holidays. He is well looked after, and given good food and clothes, he says he will not leave the master and go!

    Life is so strange. There are no answers, but each privileged one can extend helping hand to some deserving child.

    A great post.


    1. There are those too, I mean those that take care of the children whom they have hired to help. But by and large it is exploitation. I know a woman who argues that it is the problem of the government and the parents, not hers. She is not there to take care of ‘all the poor of the country.’ Certainly not, no one wants you to take care of all the poor of the country, but at least feel some remorse when you see them being exploited and share some love with them. Thankfully she has not employed a child, else she would have heard an earful from me 🙂


  16. AlkaGurha · · Reply

    Yes, since this issue is close to my heart, I have decided to do my bit…this month onwards, I will go to a school ( Shakuntalam) for underprivileged children and spend some time teaching them and talking about hygienic issues This is the only way I can do my bit..


    1. That is the best way, Alka. Walking the talk and doing something within our means. But we do need to raise our voices against those who perpetrate these atrocities.


  17. I have seen rising trend where factories and offices are displaying boards outside stating that they do not employ people below the age of 18. I am not sure if this a government mandate?
    I hope they are practicing this as well.


    1. Oh Amit, as long as there are loopholes people will try to find them. The factories with those boards might be in the organised sector, but there are children galore in unorganised sectors. And the more hazardous the industry, the more the children employed there!


  18. You intrigue my thought process every time I read something on your blog. How true is it that people think they are doing a favour to these kids by employing them? Fortunately, we never had child servants all our life. I remember once, my aunt’s family hired a girl of 8-10 to accompany my cousin. Not to take care of him like a maid servant does. They had older people for that. She was more like looking after him, kind of watching, guarding him, which is also considered as child labour. So, my aunt wanted to educate the girl and send her to school if she is ok. But surprisingly, the girl never wanted to study and go to school at all. They pleaded her numerous times of no vain. She couldn’t force her scared that she would run away. The girl has been to her home for a vacation and we came to know someone did some kind of black magic and she never wanted to come back. Don’t know how far it’s true, but never did any of my family members hire any child after that.


    1. It is very common for children not to want to go to school since it involves some discipline and these children are used to being left free. And even when they work, they look at it as their life and think that education has nothing to offer. Maybe if they continued to live in slums and don’t get food and good clothes, it would be a better idea to stay away from school, according to them. If we try to educate their mothers about the desirability of a better life for their children and consequently to them, it might work. My maid, for instance now is inclined to let us do something for her daughter who is not finding matches because apparently everyone wants an ‘educated’ girl! So from thinking that her daughter was earning her keep and contributing to the family, she has now come down to let her study, albeit late. And the girl is reluctant because she feels she is too old. We are working to make her see her future where she will be respected for having at least a school leaving certificate. I refuse to allow our maids to send their minor children to do housework and tell her to find us a replacement if she is not able to come.


  19. Zephyr, the tragedy is multi fold due interplay of many socio economic factors. The poor have more children due lack of education who they see them as more breadwinners. The ones with money have generally smaller families who can splurge and use the lesser deprived children as domestic help. Unfortunately, the government just believes in passing laws and keeps looking the other way despite violations right under the nose! We do not have easy answers in a country of billion people!


    1. I agree that it is a complex issue in such a huge country as ours, but if only we came out of our cocoons and looked around and tried ‘belling a few cats,’ things wouldn’t be so sad. What appalls me is the fact that the families earning huge salaries can afford to easily adopt a child and sponsor its education. There are any number of NGOs doing this. We in our individual capacities can do it. Yes, it is a gargantuan problem and needs huge funds and iron will. But who can tell our great leaders who are bent on lining their coffers and setting up their dynasties?


  20. Child labor is wrong. A child going hungry is wrong too. More often than not, the latter problem is solved by ignoring the former. This is a complex issue. Kind of like corruption where the giver and taker are both at fault – here the parent(s) of the child and the employer – both – need to be penalized for taking the easy way out. This is all nice for me to say. No one’s going to bell the cat because no one has the incentive to do so. In fact, there is incentive to do the opposite. The parent (of the child worker) is not convinced about the need to send his child to school and also needs the extra income. The “employer” gets cheap labor and goes without remorse or guilt on his ways.

    The answer lies in convincing the parent that educating his children is a better investment than the short term quick gains from child employment. That won’t happen until we have functioning public schools and prominent success stories and role models come out of these schools.

    I’m constantly amazed at the kind of ‘crimes’ we perpetrate in our society. Do we really need to go around educating “so-called educated and/or affluent people ” that employing a child is morally wrong? Isn’t that a self evident truth? At times, it is depressing to look around and see what we humans become as a race. There is nothing too low that we will stoop to, it seems.

    Until such great changes happen (assuming they do), we have no choice but to enforce our personal principles on this matter in our own limited ways.

    As always, great stuff, Zephyr.


    1. Your opening para sums it all up correctly. But the reason why many parents don’t want to send their children to study is because of the expenses involved. And the fall from grace of government schools, even government aided schools are not so hot in the days of global schools preparing children for ‘global environments.’

      This problem is in direct proportion to the population increase and in inverse proportion to the government’s priorities towards the poor. Education till secondary level used to be free in government aided schools but with the advent of designer schools and five star facilities in them, this has taken a beating. After letting the horse out of the stable, the government is now trying to bolt the doors by making it mandatory for private schools to admit poor children. Why not strengthen the state schools and invest in training more teachers to teach in them? Why for once, can’t there be some social accountability on the part of the government? If education is made compulsory, both the parents and the employers would think twice before encouraging child labour.

      And till such a day comes as you say, we need to live as humans and do what little we can do. My maid’s daughter who is 20, was made to drop out of school by her employer. She was told to leave her with them so that they would not only make her study, but also teach her housework. The naive woman agreed and today, that girl is a full time maid. That girl now works in my house and the L&M and I are trying to get her finish her schooling through open school. I wish I could meet the woman who made her leave school so that I could give her a piece of my mind, but alas, she is not in the city anymore.


  21. Zephyr, this is an issue that should concern all of us. Yes, people think that they are ‘helping’ these children by giving them jobs. Why not sponsor their education instead?

    So many times working couples bring young girls from their hometowns/ poor relatives to work for them. They are like fish out of water in a big city and are often taken advantage of.


    1. Granted that they are indeed helping the children by taking them into their houses, but why do they treat them like sub humans? Like a friend of mine used to say, ‘at least the children do less work in such houses than they might in their own homes.’ But he forgets that even if they did, they lived with their parents and didn’t live in bonded slavery. How many times have I been asked if I would like to get a young girl from the village, by many ‘well-wishers’ and I have told them that I would like to have an older woman who had no support, so that we could support each other.


  22. These poor kids…. they deserve to be treated with kindness too, and not made to slave away their childhood. Money does make people insensitive. I once saw this family sitting and eating in a restaurant, while their small and ragged girl maidservant was standing next to their table, holding their baby and looking at them while they ate. How can people have such small consciences?


    1. As I said in my reply to Rachna, the conscience has been silenced by their righteousness of helping a poor family. But I consider these people nothing short of monsters for being so heartless. Poverty alleviation on a macro level is the government’s responsibility, but we can all do a little to make a tiny difference and it is not just throwing a coin in a beggar child’s hand.


      1. Agree with you on that… making a child slave away in the name of helping a poor family is just another way to window-dress exploitation.


  23. Zephyr, this is a plague in our society. I have a clear conscience because I have never employed a child/ older child. But, I see this going on with impunity even in my community. I have seen a few houses bringing young boys or girls from their villages and employing them to baby sit their kids or do chores in the house including cooking. There was one person who wrote a long, compassionate mail to the house owners of one such house in our community mailing list. I wrote a mail in support of this mail. What do you know, the lady stops speaking to me and so do her friends. But, this is 100% true of the affluent lot. We have become inhuman. We will exploit if it suits us, be under no doubt. How can we improve if our conscience never pricks us? Can we teach these things to anyone? Do you really think that people who do this don’t know what they are doing. They know that no harm will come to them and that saves them. This is where I feel that our social fabric is damaged. Our conscience is dead!


    1. If there are laws against employing children in houses, we can at least give a complaint against the employers. Many cases have come to light where the neighbours have complained against such employers. However, no one wants to get involved because it would make them unpopular in the neighbourhood for tattling. So they keep quiet. It is only those with a conscience like you that is compelled to take action braving the outcome. And Rachna, the conscience here is silent because they have convinced themselves and others that what they are doing is actually good for the child and the society since they are feeding at least that child, never mind if it is after extracting more than the value of the food in terms of labour.


  24. Well written and you make a most valid point.


    1. Thank you. I value the comment from someone who is such a good writer.


  25. i observed this trend years ago as an adolescent not too familiar with the practice, it did take me by surprise. And then i grew up. i resented such practices, shunned such people – fierce arguments over the economic viability of taking care of a impoverished kid with ones who employed them as domestic help… it all pointed out one basic fact that, as you had pointed out, when it came to someone else’s kid whom you are paying for domestic help the employer tends to turn into nothing more than a tyrannical master.

    i have seen exceptions, where the family ensures that the child does get some informal education, leads a decent life, well-paid to pursue his own interests – in short turning them into faithful employees who live on in the household for years. we need too many of such exceptions.

    while working in factories does serious damage to a child – it is a damage from which the body can recover to a great extent. the psychological damage is the one which has grave consequences, causing life-long damage. sexual assault only adds salt to the wound and may create frankensteins or unstable youths – not a promising future for the country then is it? Are the LEOs taking note of such facts?


  26. With a Cup of Tea in my hand I started reading it.. and wen I stopped moving my eye balls. Realized that I did nt even sipped it once .. Dats how U mesmerize people with words…
    I feel the emotions of the childm in your words.. who’s eyes revealed her soul… the pain, the fear.. or is it the regret, or anger or Shame?.
    All of us talk about Child Labour?.. But what we do in real?. I remember last year wen I was home for Holi. We had a new helper at home. She used to come with her 5 year old daughter. At times her mother used to ask her for some helps. Which me and ma Have always objected on. With lot of efforts of mom she atleast now goes to school. But we can object that at our home? What about wht she does at others?.
    I gifted her a Holi gift this time.… few color books and n crayons sets.n I tell u .. I still remember the Scintillating eyes… that expression was pulverizing… .. I have Goosebumps.. The joy she felt at the moment .. I can still feel it now.. and my Soul Says .. why cant I do more for all the kids.. yet I do nothing.. even if I think about them.. Not just this.. a 5 year old cute looking but shabbily dressed kid comes with his father to pick up garbage daily. I saw with my own eyes people not touching these kids as they are considered from lower casts. My own family people asking me to wash hands.. just coz I pulled her cheeks?. I hate it. I made it a point to give her a toffee of Chocolate whenever I see her. And now.. she looks for me and smiles like a newly bride wen she finds me looking at her as well. She knows it’s her gift time.

    And yes u really dunoo.. what skills these kids have… unless u help them explore..

    And Children are soo sensitive.. that they can be hurt by anything.. and happy with little3 joys … and we grown up’s think that they are Children.. so they have No right to aruge, no right to ask, no right to crave , and maybe even No right to Cry…

    U are very true ..the society which is soo hypocrite .. talks about .. soo many social issues.. among themselves and at home ask these small girls and boys to work..
    How Gross can it be.. all double standards…. wen I was small in my house as well at times.. I have seen kids work.. but I cud nt do much.. today I atleast I know what my inner soul feels bad about….and I avoid doing it.

    Change starts from home.. and oneself.. Lets do sumthing first and then lets try to help people do good. Maybe people will call you foolish.. But mock off.. and do your work.. as ur heart says..

    U know.. People deploy these little kids and beat them blue and black. One of our known Aunty , who is lecturer, both kids are IAS. Means EDUCATED FAMILY… She stays alone with her pets. We came to know she used to beat the 8 year old kid with a metal stick. Feels disgusted.

    I tell u .. with time I have felt.. each one of us have layered personalities.. as the each layer is peeled off.. the more ugly the face gets… It’s applicable for most of Us.
    And those who sexually abuse kids.. shall BE HANGED .. without any thoughts.. Unless we have HARSH laws.. with proper implementation how wud they be enforeced?.
    Each day I look at the percentage of Sexual crimes against children going high?. People mistreating . Are we heading towards a society thts a nymphomaniac??? Dunoo..
    We think we cant do anything.. but we can.. atleast we can try to change ourself and help people Change..
    I still feel that lets not close eyes wen we see anything wrong.. lets give it a shot to change it .. but foremost we need to make sure that we are ourself not doing a crime like that in any stages.. only then things will change..
    ( I was thinking to write a comment but man .. wen ever i start writing I bloddy dnt stop, M Mad) 🙂 hehehe Better start your new idea quick .. else u keep getting more and more… and become a Victim..


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