The Chilukoor Temple –
I never believe in religion. It is an excuse to divide people . But what I do believe is that Godliness is present in kids. Kids untouched by the evils of the society. My mother, an obsessive Hindu devotee wanted to visit the Chilukoor temple situated a little far away from the city of Hyderabad, to pray. She would take 108 rounds of the temple in exchange for the family’s well being during the “bad times”. Completely reluctant, I went with her not to hurt her sentiments.
Once we reached, I sat outside the temple with my laptop while she proceeded to fulfil the custom.
With a smiling face, a hand holding a water bottle reached out toward me “Water, Akka?” “ No, thank you. I am good 🙂 ”, I said and continued reading the article I was instructed to. Silently, he sat beside me and started watching the screen. “ Do you understand what is written on the screen?”, I said. “p-o-l-i-t-e ! But I don’t know how to say it”, he said pointing a finger towards the word. “Do you go to school? What are you doing here in the temple?” SILENCE. “What’s your name?”, I asked. “ My name is Arjun. I like the master at the school. My mother wanted me to take care of household activities and cook food. I could not manage the two. So she brought me back from the hostel to stay at home and work”, he said, never once meeting my eyes. “ How would you earn money and become a big man if you do not study? Do you want to be able to speak in English, Arjun?” I said, watching the kid play with the mouse pad and quickly pick up on the controls. “ I earn money. For each bottle I sell, I get four rupees and my Employer gets eighteen rupees. I collected all the money and bought a saree for my sister and this watch for myself”, he said proudly, showing off the little pink digital watch on his wrist. ” It costed me 20 bucks. Only, it shows the wrong time”, he said with a sad face. “Here, let me set up the right time for you….” I started meddling with the two buttons of the watch aware of all the half dozen pair of eyes of little kids huddled around me. ” Do you know how to read time, Arjun? What is the time now?” He looked at his watch and said quickly,” 3.20!”
“ Arjun, listen to me, Tell your parents, you have to be in school. Study hard and get good marks. On your progress report it should say ‘Brilliant’. Then, you call me. I will present this laptop to you. I promise”, I said as I wrote down my phone number on a dozen paper bits and passed them around. “ Here is my friend who also does not go to school”, he introduced. “ Why don’t you go to school, little boy?What do your parents do?”, I inquired. “ My mother helps in construction of buildings. She is a mason. My father passed away”, he said. My breath stiffened.I had no words for the kid. He was looking at me, waiting for a response. “ Listen up, it may look difficult right now, but this is your prime age. You must continue your studies. It will help you become a big man in the society.What do you want to become when you grow up?” “Police!” , both of them said in unison. “So, you need to study hard for that and then do physical fitness training. And who knows, one day, I might come to your police station seeking protection. You will help me right?” , I asked. “Right!”, they said. “When will you come back again, Akka?” “Soon enough! Call me if you need something.”
And with a strong gut feeling that we are destined to meet again, I said goodbye to them. I was happy and sad at the same time as I already started missing them. I hope I really did make them realize how important education is and that they manage to chase their dreams.
Next: “Dustbin Area”