“Each one of us has also been through numerous instances of witnessing child labour and abuse. Young boys working at tea-stalls, young girls working as house-maids. We turn our eyes away from this bitter truth. Child abuse is not physical exploitation alone, but exploitation of the rights of these children to live a happy childhood, to be able to go to school. So every time we are direct or indirect employers, we are responsible for child labour and abuse.
A famous quote says, “The biggest problem is that we do not think there is a problem”. I wanted to show everyone how disturbing the truth is – how tomorrow’s India is sleeping on streets. These children, who we call the future of India, are being devoid of opportunities for education. It is an issue that impedes a developed India, and more importantly, an issue of grave concern on humanitarian grounds. Where every citizen should have been a change-maker in the country, each one of them has turned a blind eye to the issue, whilst taking our own comforted lives and privileges for granted.
After completing a full marathon, and several cycling rides, I was zealous to fulfill my hunger for peace within myself – this peace could only emanate from the knowledge that I had put all my efforts, pushed myself to the extremes and done something worthwhile for the cause I believed in.
This is how the cross country Kolkata to Mumbai 2500km cycle journey came about. People would call me ‘mad’, call the task ‘impossible’, show the shortcomings of me not being a ‘trained athlete’. But I was determined, and the fact that I was just an ordinary guy was not a hindrance, but a motivation to me. That if I can do something like this, so can you, so can everyone.
From the cycling trip, I was able to raise funds, cover several stories and raise awareness which was amplified through media, and word-of-mouth. What everyone saw as an extraordinary feat, to me was a challenge that I had to complete being just an ordinary guy, just so that everyone who constricts their efforts and puts limitations to his or her own self, can understand that there are no bounds to human potential and our ability to bring about change.
It was a change within me on several levels and phases. Through the times where sweat beads would flow from our brows to our chins through the grueling day of 45 centigrade summer heat and cycling effort, to the times where we would greeted by hospitable locals and children who resonated excitement and enthusiasm in our efforts; I enjoyed everything alike. The diverse terrain and people were enchanting and so incredible, that I was always energetic to keep pushing every day. At the same time, I would witness the different and diverse issues regarding child rights plaguing the society, each place infested with its own typical problems – from lack of teacher attendance in schools and ineffective implementation of midday meals, to lack of opportunities, grave poverty and child labour and abuse among underprivileged sections of the society. All these prodded me to keep moving with more ardor and zeal, to really bring about a change in such an abysmal state of affair.
Now at the end of the trip, my mind wanders, to questions like did I bring about a change, to answers that each one of us has to stand up and fight for a developed country. And while my mind wanders, my heart is back to yearning for the peace again, the peace I found doing something worthwhile for someone else, for a cause I believed in, for a better country. It is an effort that should never stop, it is a spirit that should never die, and it is a goal we should not stop before we reach it.”
Ujjawal Chauhan (Volunteer, Kolkata)
Read CRY in Action here