I have not had any urge to write all these days, and I can’t say I am in the best of mindsets to do a good job. However, here is a small essay written, with my active help, by my son. I hope you tolerate me for this. You cannot find a drier piece than this, I am sure.

I live in the city of Kolkata, surrounded by dusty buildings, most of them made of bricks, and some of them of a mix of thatch, wood, mud and plastic. The latter type of building makes for the shanties that freely thrive in my neighborhood.
In one such shanty lives Nandan. I have been seeing him for the last two years. Nandan does not study in my school. He works in a garage next door, by the side of the street.
At those times when the ball flies out of the building walls and lands in the garage (whenever we play cricket in our compound), Nandan is found ready with it, handing it over to us reluctantly. I have sometimes heard him being rebuked by his master for wasting time looking for the ball beneath some damaged car or the other.
Nandan looks like a grease monkey. Really. He works on his back, lying on the rough muddy ground and hands over tools to the car mechanic who is his teacher and mentor. As the day goes by, the muddied lubricants from the spare parts of the cars find their way from his hands to his face and neck. The only thing the black paint cannot hide is his brilliant smile. But that is something I have seldom seen.
Nandan does not play with us, as he is busy at work. When we are at school, he is at the workshop, and when we are playing, he is right there. We got talking sometimes, but not much.
While me and my friends are getting plumper watching TV and playing on the computer, he is thin as a rail. He cannot even find his country on a map, I found! He told me one day that he wanted to learn English and maths, and asked about how my school looked. I don’t know whether he believed me when I told him how grand and old my school was.
At home, Nandan gets to eat with his brothers (while I have none), but his mother is too busy with household work to talk to him or put him to sleep. Or else she is too busy fighting with other ladies in the shanties over whose turn it was at the toilet or the water pump. I have seen this many times from my verandah, high up in my building.
I am sure he must be getting bitten all over at night by bugs, while I sleep in comfort a few storeys above him. I sometimes wonder whether I deserve being better off than him, but then, this is not the age when I need to handle tough questions!


  1. Heartbreakingly honest and truthful post doc. The last line is the clincher.

  2. That was touching! Dry? Not my eyes, I can tell you that.

  3. No two people are brought up in similar circumstances. But there are some people who fight and rise beyond what Nature has provided to them.
    I would respect everybody who give to their sons and daughters what they themselves have missed. If Nandan is able to give education to his children inspite of his lack of getting the same, we can start believing in the concept of society. Great post.

    Destination Infinity

  4. This is a sad reality all over India. Sometimes, I feel it’s nice that the poor kid has something to eat everyday but sometimes I feel that he is loosing his childhood when he should be studying in a school. Child labor is banned in India, but…

    Nice post. Keep Blogging!

  5. r,

    If it was your son who thought of this, he really is something else. You should be proud.


  6. Rads, Naren, Biju, DI, and Gauri:
    Thanks for your kind remarks. Just shows that I have a bunch of bleeding hearts for readers!

  7. Hey doc,
    I have been a frequent visitor to your blog, though I have never commented, I thought this was probably the most simple, and struck a chord.This is straight from the heart, honesty and innocence of thought exemplified by a child. cheers

  8. To us as adults, the innocence of children is aesthetically beautiful. I suspect we all seek that sense of beauty when we project innocence on our children. However, i also suspect the kids know better πŸ™‚

    Great blog btw doc, I am a silent follower, and admire (in all your political posts) your struggle for balance between liberal and conservative cultures, your emphasis on accommodating all points of view, your resistance against easy conclusions.

  9. Rasputin and Pavan,
    It is a pleasure to know that you read my blog and enjoy doing so. I hope you continue to interact and comment freely. And yes, I try to be objective in analysing anything, and I like the fact that you like it, Pavan!

  10. how old is your son? πŸ˜› 6th,7th ?

  11. Really touching post, especially coming from your Son’s point of view!

  12. Brilliant and childlike
    Nandan is quite mature for his age …
    he could be a valuable contributor to ur blog !

  13. You must be really proud of your son, Rambodoc. Not just because he has inherited writing skills from you but also because he is so sensitive. I hope he remains the same always.
    It is difficult to explain to young kids, why life is so unfair to some.

  14. Prerna:
    Thank you. Nice to hear from you after a while!
    I am happy you like it. Nandan is not my son’s name, though!
    Thanks, mate. Glad you like it!
    Must be as old as you! πŸ˜‰

  15. very nicely written!

  16. My daughter, when she was about 10, wrote an essay on slavery. The gist of her poem was that death was the last but definite recourse for bondage. I guess she was influenced by Patrick Henry’s “Give me freedom, or give me death”.

    Children, I read somewhere, learn to be cynical at a surprisingly young age – five to seven. When do they learn to be compassionate? What evolutionary advantage accrues from compassion? Why do we have Mirror Neurons?

    I am curious to know what explanation, if any, you gave your son for Nandan’ plight. Care to share?

  17. Ooops! Was it an essay or a poem? Well, it was a long, long timw ago πŸ™‚

  18. oops, my bad
    late nites
    ur son was writing about nandan

  19. TRF:
    Thanks for the link to a great post. I have always clearly maintained to my son the difference between the accident of birth and the lack of it in actions.

  20. Its strange that the place where we are born makes such a big difference.

  21. Bombay wadapav eater

    Your son writes really well. Would love to know his age. It is really sad that in India still education is a privilege. In Germany, education is for free but many kids abuse it. Here they talk of poverty and that so many kids are poor but poor is they can’t wear all those hip clothes and Adidas shoes or probably cannot afford to go to a picnic. Nobody has to stay hungry or work as a child. Hope Nandan would manage going to some night school and learn.

  22. That was a beautiful, intelligent and sensitive post, Doc. I read it first a few days ago, but didn’t have much time to think about it — I’m so glad I came back and read it again. Despite the age of the author, that post is literature.

    I hope your son continues to hone his remarkable skills as a writer. I especially admire your son’s compassion, and I believe his essay shows more insight than is sometimes found in much older people.

  23. Amit:
    They say the place makes the man, and it is a rare man that makes the place.
    He is 13, and an innocent one at that.
    Thanks for your kind words, really!

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