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From school to pan shop- story of a child labourer

Today I’ll be sharing the story of Akif, a 14 year old boy who works at pan shop.

He has been working here since last 32 months because his father cannot fend for the family owing to lower limb disability as a consequence of a stroke incurred few years ago, which now makes him unable to walk and thus, home-bound.  His mother died when he was very young.

He has four siblings; his eldest sister got married few years ago and a little sister stays at home with his father. His two brothers don’t stay with him.

His elder brother fled to Lahore when his father got paralysed, where as his other brother, who is around 26, used to work in Multan, but later he left his job and became drug addict and hasn’t been home since last year. He loves his younger sister who is around 11 years old who hasn’t quit studying. One of his aunts teaches her at her home.

He wants to become a doctor, though he doesn’t study, but when I inquired he said, “dil karta hai parhnay ko par ghar kaisay chalay ga?” (My heart feels like studying, but how will we survive if I won’t earn?).

Though he used to go to school until 9-10 months ago, he had to leave it as his father got ill and there was no one to earn for his home as he was the only one who had to accept this responsibility of bread winning and also as his sister was too young to take up any minor job, too.

When his household’s financial conditions worsened further, he left school and came to this pan shop to earn for his family. He is the only one who pays his home electricity bill, water bills, cost of food for his sister and father. He is the one who buys medicine and other daily necessities for the family.

When I asked him about his hobbies? He said he loves playing cricket with his friends but hardly gets time as he normally works 8am-9pm. When I asked what’s your favourite food he said “Jo mil jaie kahanay ko”(Whatever I would get to eat is all welcome).

He works all 7 days of week where as he normally earns 200-300 rupees from tip people give after receiving their goods such as cigarettes, cold drink, chips or juices.

He gives all of this money to his father when he goes home and keeps only 10-20rupees with himself.

He doesn’t earn any fixed amount because it all depends on how generous the customer is while giving tip. If he earns even less his father silently accepts whatever he hands over to him.

In this candid chat that I had with him in order to know about his struggles, I interrogated him about his worst days and these days are when people ran away without paying, and if they run, he has to pay for the loss as ordered by his boss. This has happened twice with him already when he was forced to pay these losses to the pan shop owner. He is often forced to work inside the shop by pan shop owners without pay. Though he is not employed by the pan shop, he just offers services to people for their tip. Yet, despite of not being an employee, owner dominates him and beats him if he doesn’t follow his orders.

An incident which recently occurred, put him in a fix. His father and sister went to their village for a marriage but he was not allowed an off of 3 days from work.

As he used to earn on daily basis from tipping customers, he decided to stay back in Faisalabad and work overtime. After working continuously for 2 days at shop he asked his owner to let him sleep at his residence where other employees and waiters also would sleep.

While he was sleeping someone stole his money from his pocket and left him with almost nothing again.

Many such Akif abound several parts of the world where they are met only with hopelessness and despair and a life full of misery.

What was his crime? What is his fault that he deserves such a life? Is there no one who can alleviate their condition and palliate their troubles?

Can we humans not join hands for the sake of our humanity and share what we want with out fellow counterparts who are and were not born with a silver spoon in mouth?

Despite of numerous NGO’s looking after such people, how many can we truly rely on to help such grossly poverty stricken families? We honestly can only plan out well and hope for a better tomorrow for our future generations.

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