Sometimes I Find a Rupee in the Garbage
Saheb is a ragpicker, searching for gold in garbage. His family is from Bangladesh which they left long ago. The author saw Saheb digging and picking garbage for his livelihood every day. One day the author suggested him to go to school, to which he replies that there is no school nearby. She jokingly told him that she would open a school. After some time the little boy walked up to her to ask about the school about which the author felt embarrassed as this promise was also like many other promises made to poor children that remain unfulfilled.
One day, the author asked the little boy’s name and found out that his name was Saheb-e-Alam which meant lord of the universe, ironically. There were many ragpickers and most of them didn’t have chappals. Anees was told that going barefoot was a way to follow a tradition which she realises as an excuse for poverty. The author is reminded of a man who as a young boy prayed for a pair of shoes. Thirty years later the author revisits that place and saw a new priest’s home and a boy there, wearing socks and shoes. But the author was still sad thinking about the ragpickers who were still shoeless.
The ragpickers lived on the outskirts of Delhi at Seemapuri. They lived in small mud structures with roofs of tin and tarpaulin. They were deprived of basic amenities. Food was the most important thing for them so that they don’t have to sleep on an empty stomach. Saheb told the author that sometimes he found a ten rupee note or a coin in the garbage and that was his gold.
One winter morning Anees noticed Saheb with tennis shoes. Though they were mismatched with his faded clothes, they were very dear to him. One morning the author noticed Saheb with a steel container, going to a milk booth. He had got a job at a tea stall with pay of eight hundred rupees plus meals. But the author realises that he no longer looked carefree because he had been burdened by the responsibility of a job.
I Want to Drive a Car
The author then tells the readers about Mukesh a young boy who worked in a (bangle) glass factory in Firozabad. Mukesh belonged to a family which is engaged in bangle-making, like many other families. The author comments on the ignorance of the people there who involve their children in the glass industry at such a young age. Mukesh happily agrees to take the author to his home which is being rebuilt. They enter a half-built shack. Food was being cooked on a firewood stove by a young woman. She was Mukesh’s elder brother’s wife, the bahu of the family. When the older man entered the house she pulled her veil close to her face. The older man was a bangle maker. He worked hard all his life first as a tailor and then as a bangle maker. He could not give his children an education but taught them the art of bangle making.
Mukesh’s grandmother believes in destiny, she also believes that bangle making is a God given lineage. Young boys and girls work in dark places and become prone to lose their eyesight at an early age. Savita is a young girl dressed in pink. She works with her parents and even in dark her hands move fast. She does not realise the significance of bangles in the life of Indian women at this young age. But she will realise it once she is married. The situation is ironical because all girl child labourers will eventually become brides and wear those bangles. The old lady sitting next to her has lost her eyesight and complains of poverty. They had enough to eat despite all the hard work.
A common complaint of all families involved in bangle-making is the lack of money for food. Nothing has changed for a long time. The author gives suggestions to avoid the circle of middlemen. But the people there tell her that if they get organised they would be beaten up by police and put in jail. These poor people have no leader and they are caught in the ruthless cycle of poverty, injustice and greed. The author feels they are present in two distinct worlds. One is people caught in the clutches of poverty and burdened by the stigma of caste. Secondly, these people are also caught in the vicious circle of middlemen, policemen, and politicians. It is because of such people that the children are weighed down with responsibilities at such a tender age. The children accept it as naturally as their parents did. No one dares to deviate.
The author sees the daring attitude in Mukesh and hopes he will fulfil his dream one day. Mukesh insists on becoming a motor mechanic. He is willing to walk a long way to the garage to give wings to his dreams. At the same time, Mukesh is firmly rooted to the ground. He does not dream of flying aeroplanes. The author feels that maybe this is due to the fact that few planes fly over Firozabad.