She wasn’t just an ordinary girl riding that swing in the park. Every day I saw her smile. Innocent, beautiful and heartbreaking style. Running in the park was a dull tiring experience, her smile just made me forget my pain and remember hers. Her name was Riya. I could see what was behind that smile.
14 year old has lived a life quite extraordinary. This delightful experience of swing in the park is perhaps the least she deserved. This is the only time she can be herself, a child. How did she land here and why does she spend every evening playing on this swing? Questions are bound to arise. I won’t keep you waiting for long though. This is a story everyone must listen to.
3 years back she was brought to the city by her Uncle. He promised her poor family, an improved education and life in the city. Innocent girl unaware of her future was simply transported from village to city. As a child, when you are completely surrounded by strangers, it can be a daunting experience. She lived every second of it. Life was different from day one. She was kept with her cousins but rules were different for her.
wife gave Riya a lesson on how she should live in their house. It wasn’t a pleasant introduction. She definitely felt like an outsider. She was an outsider. Riya had 2 cousins: Radhika and Rohan. Both were younger to her. Radhika was 7 and Rohan was 5.Riya was feeling uncomfortable from day one. But she couldn`t speak. Every evening she just mustered enough courage to play on that swing in the park.
You must be wondering why didn’t I name the uncle or her wife, because it is not their story. This is a story of a lost childhood. Riya was trained to become an adult. She wasn’t ready yet. Uncle`s wife would teach her to clean room, utensils, and clothes when she should have been playing with toys. Her childhood was already left behind in the village.
She made mistakes, she got punished. But she was just a child. Yet, she learned quickly. Soon, she could do most household duties. She was taught how to cook, clean and take care of Rohan and Radhika. It’s strange, how parents distinguish one child from another child. She wasn’t their child but she was still a child. She didn’t utter a word. I would daily see her playing on the swing, sometimes alone, other times with Radhika. But playing with Radhika wasn’t normal. It was a forced exercise to keep Radhika happy and engaged. Who cared about Riya`s happiness?
Despite all of this, she managed to keep a smiling face. She never got education or care or childhood. Yet she braved it all when she shouldn’t have. She had no reason to smile, yet she did. Riya is an inspiration to everyone who cribs about trivial problems on a daily basis. She never complained. She is also a reminder that not every child is treated as a child.
When I asked Uncle about why doesn’t Riya go to school?
He said: Your aunt teaches her at home
Oh, so she is home tutored(I thought in my mind). Special Child. I knew this was a lie. Just to conceal the crime. How can they take away a child`s freedom, her dreams, and her aspirations?
I couldn’t sleep that night. Simply wondering how many more Riya would be playing on the swing every evening. That brief respite from a torturous life was all that a swing could offer. Nobody will tell you about this, but if you observe closely you will see. Children like Riya are not even allowed to play with so-called elite children. This distinction is made so early in life. Then we complain about injustice as an adult. Her childhood is already scarred. Riya is a bright child yet she is living as an unhappy forced adult.
Unfortunately, in our country, child labor disguised as charity is a common phenomenon. Riya is just one of the victim.