I walked hurriedly towards the metro station. I am going to get late, I thought. Motivating myself to rush, I accidentally stepped on something. I took a step back and saw a beautiful rose I trampled upon. I looked around and saw a girl looking accusingly at me. Dressed in a frock probably given to her by someone, she held a bunch of beautiful roses. But, the look on her face showed she wasn’t happy with my stupid act. I understood she belonged to the group of kids who sold roses near metro stations every day. Hoping to win her over, I smiled. She returned a gracious smile and came near me. She was a familiar face, I realised!
Being trained on how to sell flowers, she caught hold of the chance, asking, “Didi, ek le lo na!” I knew I didn’t want to buy a rose. I bent and said, “Le lungi, pehle aap yeh bataao ki aapka naam kya hai.” She answered, “Roshni”. Her innocent smile made me exclaim, “Arre, aap toh is gulaab ki tarah hi ho!” She was a clever girl and returned to her usual line, “Didi, ek le lo na!” I knew I didn’t want to buy the rose, but wanted to listen to her story. I convinced her to tell me where she stays. She pointed to the tent near a metro pillar. The roses in her hand and the tent she lived in made me understand that she might have had a troubled past.
Without me asking any further, she continued, “Meri mummy yahaa par baithke yeh sab baandhti hai, phir hum bechte hai. Phir hum paise lekar mummy ko dete hai. Woh raat ko paise kisi uncle ko deti hai.” I asked, “Aap us uncle ko jaante ho?” She nodded her head cutely saying, “Na!” I knew something was fishy, and I asked, “Aap school jaate ho?” She looked at me perplexed. She returned to the ‘uncle’ taking money from her mother, saying, “Mummy hume unse milne nahi deti hai. Woh bahaar aate hai, mummy ko bulaate hai aur paise lekar jaate hai.” My Sherlock Holmes side came up and I asked, “Agar aap yeh uncle se mile nahi ho, toh phir kaise pata ki aapki mummy paise deti hai?” “Mere bhaiya ne bataya! Usne chup ke se dekha. Meri ek behen bhi hai, par woh uncle use lekar chale gaye. Mummy kehti hai ki woh kaam karne gayi hai. Ek raat woh uncle bahot chilaaye aur mummy andar aake bahot royi. Kal toh police waale uncle aake mummy pe chilaaye. Mere bhaiya ko maara. Galat hai na?”
Having heard stories on gangs which force women and children to beg, I felt maybe the ‘uncle’ was a part of such a notorious gang. I wanted to know more, but little Roshni had nothing more to say. She only had disgust for the ‘uncle’ in her otherwise innocent voice. I asked if she ever wanted to attend school. She again nodded, but this time, it was a yes. But the nod stopped quickly as she said, “Par mummy ko akele chodke nahi jaaungi. Mummy ne kaha, thodi badi ho jaaungi toh mujhe woh uncle lekar jaayenge.” For a second, I felt goosebumps all over, as I could only assume why she would be taken away.
My emotions took over, and I felt sorry for her. But I knew sympathy won’t help the child. What would help is a concrete step to rescue this child from the claws of this perilous racket. But she isn’t the only child stuck in this evil. There are others too. What about them? As I kept thinking, she tied up her roses, ran to her friends and waved at me. I was still shocked because of her story. I had read such stories. But hearing it from a child who might be taken away, made me shudder. She went to the other gate of the metro station and vanished from my sight. Her eyes were promising, and her voice rang in my ears. I looked at my watch and realised I was too late. Catching up on my previous pace, I rushed for the metro.
The next day, I was hoping to meet her again, so that I could inform a few rescue workers. But, I couldn’t find her at her usual place. Her friends found me as ‘Roshni ki didi’ and smiled. I asked one of them, “Roshni kaha hai?” Her joy suddenly turned in to gloom, and said, “Woh uncle Roshni ko lekar chale gaye, kaam ke liye. Uski mummy Dilli chali gayi.” I looked at the kids, knowing they weren’t of a suitable age to understand where Roshni might have been taken. I realised I was late or maybe the ‘uncle’ was early! He wanted to take Roshni away when she grew up, but this sudden action made me feel empty.
The rose I trampled upon the previous day was still there. Withered, it lay there, destroyed by the greed of selfish men and women. It was supposed to be beautiful and its fragrance was supposed to touch hearts. But, it lay there, trampled upon by men who wanted to make big bucks through illegal and inhuman ways. As I walked towards the metro platform, I realised the rose I saw was beautiful, fallen and trampled upon, never to bloom again. Maybe she will, but is there hope?
By Sarah Jacob