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(A short story of 2550 words)

Boxed In


by Leela Soma

A story about the plight of the many children working in the fireworks factories of India. It is important that the voices of such people are heard through literature.

I stood at the doorway as I heard my amma pleading with the man.

‘I have two more mouths to feed. You know that I’m working in houses as a maid, and I can’t do any more. Please give me more time.’ Her voice shook as she implored.

‘Then that rogue of a husband of yours shouldn’t have taken a loan. I’m no charity. The full amount tomorrow or else you’ll be out of this miserable hut,’ he roared, his moustache quivering. He strode away; his menacing look burned my face. I ran and stood beside my amma, tugging at her sari. She was shaking her head, her voice reaching a keening that I had heard four years ago when my father had drowned in the river.

Suicide, shame leaving the family destitute – words I had understood with creeping fear. My little brother came running and tugged at my sari. I put an arm around him.
My amma beat her chest and cried, ‘What will I do? God help me. Someone help me.’

I said gently to her, ‘Remember amma, when I joined the match factory, Mani, the gaffer said he’d give you an advance if you let Ram work there? You didn’t want to take him away from the school, but we have so much work now, and they are looking for extra hands. I know he’ll take him. Let’s go right now, we can’t wait any longer.’

My amma sat on her haunches. Her sobs were quieter now, and her face crumpled with deep lines. With little energy she wiped her tears and her nose on her sari. She nodded and got up slowly. We walked the two miles to the gaffer’s house in the blazing sun...

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