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Chotu – One common story of a common boy in India


Hello Saheb ji and Madam ji,

My name is Chotu. Ma says she used to call me babu when I was just a few months old. But my boss calls me Chotu. I work in a small stall. My boss owns a stall which is a few blocks away from Bhikaji Cama Place. It’s a commercialized complex and lots of bade Sahebjis come to work. They have big and good looking cars. I wish I could drive them one day. Maybe I can. I was telling Ma that I will become a driver when I grow up because of my love for cars. I always wondered how they worked. I had once got a chance to talk to the Saheb ji of one of the cars which was parked there. He was standing while his driver was changing the punctured tire. I was called to help the driver. When I was done the Saheb ji started asking me questions and when I asked about how the car worked, he smiled and said he had no idea. I had thought that he would know since he looked well educated to me but he did not. The driver told me later that, Saheb ji was just a rich son of a rich man. He was just lucky to have been born in that family. That made me sad.  I thought everyone who goes to isschool is wise.  Ma also wants me to go to isschool and study but I cannot. We don’t have money.  After talking to Saheb ji, I wonder if I will become a learned man. I don’t know.

The other day I saw two pretty didi’s. I called them to our stall but they told me not to pester them. While passing our stall they even used some eenglees. These days I hear many people speaking eenglees. It sounds very nice to me. I don’t know much angreji. But my boss taught me some words like hello, good morning and thank you. The didi’s while passing by the stall said they would not have anything from us because they were not sure how clean we were. I take a bath every morning before coming to work. There is a tap in our jhuggi. I don’t understand why they spoke like that. It was very strange to see that they did not stop at our stall but went a block ahead and stopped at Rakesh’s stall. Maybe they like him. I don’t know.

Rakesh sells golgappas and chaat. I think didi’s like golgappas and chaat. I have seen many didi’s there mostly in the evening. Rakesh lives in our jhuggi too. He takes bath before me under the same tap. I don’t know why the didi’s find him clean and not me. Maybe I am not as gora as him. Ma got a soap last week. I have been using it and rubbing on my face.  Ma said it’s a new soap which will make you gora in less than seven days. But they showed a didi on the TV. Maybe it will not work on me. I am a boy. I don’t know.

Oh by the way, we don’t have a TV. Ma saw it in the badi kothi where she works. She washes the dishes and cleans the house. The Madam ji for whom my Ma works is very nice. She gives me some clothes to wear sometimes. Last to last Diwali she gave me a new shirt to wear. I don’t like Diwali. I generally lose all my jhuggi friends a month before Diwali. They all go to some factory to make crackers. They say it is a very tough job and they don’t like making crackers. They want to study like the other children their age. But they cannot because they don’t have any money. Sometime back there was an andolan to stop using child labor for making crackers. But there are still many who still work there. What can they do? They need daal roti to live. My Ma’s madam ji seems very well educated to me. She knows many things and how they work. She also says she doesn’t like the ghotaalaa in the politics in our country. She says she would have made our country a better place to be in if she was the Prime Minister. She says people don’t select the right people and the jhuggi people are too blind and trust any neta and vote for him. The last time, elections took place I had gone to Madam ji to ask who she thought was right to vote because Ma had to vote the next day.  Madam  ji said she had no interest whatsoever. She said she had a party to go to and so she would not be going out to vote. Plus it was very hot outside. I don’t understand why she wouldn’t vote. Maybe she doesn’t care. I don’t know.

These bade padhe likhe log don’t look very padhe likhe to me. Ma tells me to shut up because I don’t go to isschool. I ask her back, do the Saheb and Madam jis know? May be they do but pretend not to.Then why are only the jhuggi people called ignorant? I don’t know.

Well, it’s been a while now and I have to go. You see I have to take the Chai to our customers. We have a Chai stall and everyone here calls me Chotu- Chaiwala.

A very common story of an Indian boy. India has completed 63 years of freedom but still people question about its independence. It doesn’t have anything to with the nation but the people in it. How many of us are actually doing anything? Before submitting this article I made my friend read it, he told me we Desis in States are not good enough either. It is always easier to write and speak but rarely does anyone come ahead to do something. But is that how people back home look at all the desis abroad?? That we desis leave the country, lose the cultural touch, keep criticizing and plan never to return back home?  No. I’m not one of those. I might be away but I am Proud to be who I am. An Indian.

0 19 August, 2010 India Matters August 19, 2010

About the author

Hi!I'm Upasana. I am currently a student in New York. I have a severe case of dog obsession.I love shopping. Come join me in my independent, mawkish journey all the way from New Delhi to New York.

View all articles by Upasana Bhattacharjee


  1. Anney

    Hey…thoughtful reading….it’s true, all talk and no show for it. I applaude your style or presentation…it is so simple and uncomplicated. :)My resolution since the last two years is helping these chotus in my state.

    1. Upasana

      Yes. It’s still really sad to know that many kids in India still don’t get proper education. :weep:

    1. Upasana

      Hehe I’m geelaad you liked the isstory..I will kheep riting so you can kheep reeeding.. :giggle:

  2. Mani padma

    Hey Upasana U impressed me again with your article. great job ! 🙂 But I have a poser for all of you. Its not that I am upholding child labour, but as a means of survival for these chotus and many such chotus, which of the lesser evils will you recommend? Child labour, child prostitution, begging, crime? Now you will say none of those, a child should only go to school, but try saying that to a poverty striken family or a destitute orphan, I dont think you will get a favourable response. What i wan to say is simple banning of child labour is not a proper solution without a back up plan. The chotus will only have to slog harder to earn double to escape the long arm of law if half measures are taken

    1. jassi

      i agree banning child labor is half part of the solution but wt say abt free education provided by the government. i think awareness among poor people will go in a long way curing this

  3. Upasana

    @ Mani : I’m glad you read the article. Also, to what you said, yes we need to come up with more for the kids before we stop them from working. I guess it starts from the parents itself. They should be employed in better places where they can provide basic necessities to their children. Too bad, we still have a lot of issues to work on before we can do more for these kids. But I know many NGOs which are working for their development. I’m hoping to see more of it in the near future.

    @ Gyanban: Thanks for reading 🙂

  4. Vee...

    Ups –
    That’s a wonderful post narrated with soul. I too came across people who questioned me for leaving to the States for my studies. And, with out waiting for my response they would criticize me for not coming back and being totally careless about the country.
    I always have plans of going back and doing something in my own way to make India a better place.

    I know, it’s all talk show and ask those people who questioned me about they would do to the country with cribbing about people who leave the country in search of their goals.

    Those last lines in the conclusion simply reflect what I have in my heart. Thanks for writing the post.


  5. Vineet

    surely, i would agree to what vee. it does have soul. a lot of it. i think we should all chip in to curd child labor; and that begins at home. still so many households employ children, and that is so uncool!

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