As I looked at the six boys all over the cars at the auto mechanic’s workshop, with their sun-bathed bodies and clothes as greasy as the car parts they handled, I couldn’t help but wonder.
Who could they be? Apprentices? Mechanic’s sons? What are they doing here during school hour?
As these questions popped up nonstop, the oldest among them 16, or thereabout, walked up to me wearing a charming ‘happy’ smile. He welcomed me and asked what was wrong with my car.
I couldn’t tell him because I felt he was too young for the job. But when other customers drove in and abandoned their cars to them to repair without a bother, I yielded reluctantly.
“I have an issue with my brake pad. Are you sure you can carry out a check to fix it?” I approached the busy sixteen-year-old.
“We can sir!” He said and before I could say any more word the youngest, a boy not more than 8. dropped tools by my car and got to work.
This infant of a boy isn’t going to fix my car. He’s way too young. I hate child labour.
“Please send someone stronger to do this. You want this little boy’s hand to break?” I said to the oldest boy and he assured me the little boy could handle it.
“I’ll carry out checks when he’s done with removing the tire,” he said.
I calmed down and looked on with only two words on my mind – Child Labour
This is being hard on a poor little boy.
I’m definitely going to find out who his parents are and why they could pay for him to learn a hard skill and not pay his school fees.
Then came the owner of the workshop.
“Hello, sir. Welcome to my workshop. Have you been here for long? Gone to do one or two things inside the town? Welcome.”.
‘Thanks.” I said hating his guts.
“I hope your car is in good hands, ”
“I hope so,” I said observing the little boy. “Are all these your kids?
“Five of them are.” He said as he bent to watch the little boy.
“This is my nephew. He’s staying with us for a while.”
“Yes. He’s a good boy. Hardworking too.”
“Hmm. No school today?” I asked
“They’re on mid-term break.”
I breathed the cool breath of relief and nodded happily.
“But he’s very young for this kind of work sir. To be frank, it’s not good for him. His bones are still too fragile for this kind of work. I’m afraid he might get hurt.” I said choosing my words carefully, taming my emotions.
“No one is forcing anyone to work around here. They all beg me to give them a chance to work. They love what they do here. You see him working hard at that? If you tell him to stop, you will be ruining his day.”
‘Yes. That’s how he gets his fun. It sounds ironic but that’s just it.’
“This isn’t child Labour right?” I said and he laughed.
“Where did you get that?” he laughed again.
“Definitely no! 1. He is happy doing it. 2. He goes to school 3. I’m not forcing it on him 4. No danger involved.”
“You think there is no danger attached?” I asked judging.
“Many customers feel the same way. They said I shouldn’t bring them here. But I think they’re learning, even though it’s not a must for them.” He said.
“Watch me.” He took the tools from the boy and asked him to take a rest and the little boy whined the judges out of me.”
“I never get the chance to finish anything around here,” he grumbled.
“He enjoys it! Wow! I’m impressed!”
“Now that’s what I mean.”
This isn’t a pure case of child labour but still child labour.
With this on my mind I said to him; “Please don’t expose them too much to this work especially the tender one, please, ” he nodded.
“I’ll try my best sir. Thanks for coming.”
I watched from my side mirror as the seven of them waved their hands. Probably happy they were able to fix my car.
What does child labour mean to you? And do you think the kids in the story above are exposed to such? Please share your opinion.