An Unlikely Friendship

“Madam please buy a newspaper”

This was the line Chotu repeated every five minutes or so to passers-by in the parking lot. Madam replaced by Sir alternatively, but the line remained more or less the same. Most people ignored him, some people noticed him enough to say no to him and there were these very few people who actually bought the paper from him.

Chotu’s 11 year old life was pretty simple. He woke up early at 4 a.m., study under the streetlight until the sun rose. This was followed by helping his 6 year old younger sister get ready for school and in between helping his mother with her daily chores. This was followed by a walk with his little sister to school at 7 a.m. It almost took him an hour to reach school every day. After school Chotu would go home with his sister, leave her at home and then leave to get his daily stock of newspapers from his supplier. Then he would arrive at the parking lot, arrange his stack of papers in his arms and will keep hopping around the parking lot to sell them. At the end of the day he would give the sales proceeds of the day to the supplier after reducing Rs. 50 as his daily wages. On days of no sales he got no wages. These daily earnings were then given to his mother to help her make ends meet.

Sara’s daily routine involved an evening stop at the favourite coffee shop after her tiring work day. She would make a stop on her way home from office, park her car and get her daily dose of caffeine. This parking lot happened to be the same parking lot where Chotu tried to sell some papers. Sara was approached by a kid, who said, “Madam please buy a newspaper.” Like most days Sara ignored him, thinking she has no energy to read a newspaper at this hour, and even if she did, she had her phone for that. Sara went and got her coffee, as she was taking out her car, the same kid approached her again; she ignored him and left the parking lot.

The following day, again Sara parked at the same place. The same kid approached her with a plea to buy the newspaper, with the same smile he had yesterday. There was something in that smile which made it hard for her to ignore this particular kid. She asked him, “I don’t have any need for this paper.” Chotu replied her, “would you like me to clean your car, I could use some income.” Sara was against child labour and she couldn’t have this sweet kid clean her car. She asked him, “How old are you, and do you go to school?” Chotu replied, “I am 11 year old and yes Madam I go to school, please let me clean your Car.” Sara thought this kid is too young to be working at all.

Sara was lost in her thoughts when Chotu dropped his stack of papers and fainted. Sara was shocked; she placed him in her back seat and took him to the nearest hospital. She stayed there till he was revived and was told by the Doctors that he fainted due to dehydration and lack of nutrition. She asked Chotu the reason behind this state. He replied, “My mother could only provide food for two persons today, so I being the man of the house made her n my sister eat it.” Sara thought this kid was too old for his age. Running around empty stomach in the blazing sun was probably what caused him to faint. Sara remembered how he had been asking to do some work to get some income. She suddenly felt very shallow and insensitive. She realised she had been selfish thinking about her own principles and not giving this kid small amount of money which could have bought him a meal.

Chotu was discharged by the doctors after few hours, Sara stayed with him, paid his bills then took him in her car to his home. Along the way she found out Chotu’s father passed away when he was just a year old. He had taken the role of his father for his younger sister ever since her birth. He enjoyed reading books and studying and he wanted to become a big man one day so his mother could live a happy life without her struggles. Sara felt like saluting to this little kid. He had so much zeal in him to do something good with his life despite his obvious lack of means.

They reached his home; she saw the small room they called home. She met his mother who thanked her for her kindness. Sara was almost in tears, for she thought she didn’t deserve a thank you at all. She has ignored the struggles of this kid and so many others like him for so long. She saw a young girl running towards them and going into Chotu’s arms. There was so much love in their eyes for each other that Sara felt tears falling down her cheeks. Sara left Chotu’s mother with his medicines and instructions, shook hands with Chotu and left for her home.

Next day she found Chotu in the same parking lot, with his new stack of newspapers and he approached him with same line, “Madam please buy a newspaper.” He had that refreshing smile on his face. Sara told him, “I will make you a deal, meet me here every evening at this time and tell me about your day while I have my cup of coffee. I will give you one book every week and you have to tell me what you learned from the book’s reading.” Chotu replied, “That’s a very nice offer madam, but my job doesn’t allow me any time.” Sara told him, “I will pay you Rs.60 per hour for every hour of your time you give me, but you have to give me an account of how you used that money.” She continued, “My only condition is you quit your current job and take mine.” Chotu felt overjoyed but couldn’t believe it, he asked, “this is not a joke right?” Sara replied, “No, your first day starts tomorrow, if you choose to take my offer.”

From that day began a new friendship between an 11 year old kid and a corporate employee. After that day Sara never ignored little kids selling things, or asking for work. She never made them work but donated a nominal amount which could get them a meal at the very least. She couldn’t help everyone, but she could afford to help Chotu. So she made it her business to get him interesting and educational books, soon she found Chotu loved reading them. Sara couldn’t do everything but that didn’t stop her from doing the little that she could do!!


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