Tender Hands
-By Madhulika Rao

I am a little boy of six
Selling plastic toys from door to door
I wander in grey unknown cinderblock neighbourhoods,
Just to earn rupees four

I am a little boy of eight
A determined voice in me says
I just have to earn more today
So that baba can pay off his debt

I am a little boy of nine
I yearn for ma’s love and to play with toys
I yearn to read and write and study in school
Just like all the other boys

I am a little boy of ten
Shivering in the dark, cold merciless night
I am suffering for the blunder of not having made a penny today
Even my manager is nowhere in sight

This is what happens to all the lads
Not one single penny who have earned
They are left in grey unknown cinderblock neighbourhoods,
Only to be found half-life, whimpering on the frozen ground

I bear cataclysmic relentless whippings
If I have not a single penny made
But when I see my father haggard and slumped
I shed countless tears for his sake

I am a boy of eleven now
I am determined to change my destiny
My dream to study will no longer be a dream
From the bondage of child labour, I shall be free

Education will redeem me from this life of misery
I will study hard and work no more
I will touch the horizons of the skies
And no longer survive to earn only rupees four.

My message as a thirty year old President,
“Child labour effaces the ignited minds”- this we cannot afford
The time to realize the power of education is now or never
Please! Please let the tender hands lift the pen and not the load.

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