Tring… tring… I answered the phone. It was my colleague Nilu who gives me a lift to office everyday. “I am not going home directly from office. I have to meet my aunt. She has arranged for a stay-at-home maid for my house. You can come along. It won’t take too long”

“Ok. I will come”

She parked the car outside the building. She looked excited and anxious at the same time.

Me: What happened?

Her: Well… Finally, the maid is here. My house is a mess. When I go home I like to sit and talk to my hubby but I have to cook and clean instead. There are relatives/friends visiting on the weekend. I desperately need some help. This maid is from the same village as my aunt’s maid. But she is very young… I would have preferred a married or old maid. I mean… will it be ok if I leave her home all day? Is it ok if I lock the door from outside?

Me: Are you crazy? How can you lock someone inside the house? How can anyone live like that?

Her: But.. she is young. What if she invites someone home? You know what I mean?

Me: You are right… that is a matter of concern. But you can always ask the security guard to keep an eye on her? The security in our building is very good

With these thoughts in mind we reached her aunt’s place. The maid was barely 13-14 yrs. Her name was Rita.

Aunt: Take her home with you tonight… you can leave her here tomorrow morning. She can cook, clean, iron clothes… I have been making her work all day today. She arrived from Jharkhand in the morning. Take her home again on Saturday and see if everything is ok. She is young… so you can mould her and she wont even dominate you. For the first few weeks you can lock her at home. She told me she does not have a bf but you never know. She will do all the work… she needs the money.

“This is child labor”; I thought. “It is not fair. Poor girl. What must she be thinking? Is she feeling lucky to find a home or is she cursing herself for being sent away from home like this?”

I remembered Hansa… the maid who worked in our hostel. She was a teenager when her parents packed her off to Mt Abu in search for work. Her dad dealt in liquor in Gujarat. The govt had taken the initiative of stopping child labor. They would go to every hostel and check if any children are being employed there. Hansa had to lie about her age… it helped that she looked older. The matron (owner of the hostel) patiently explained to us; “If the officials know she is not 18 they will send her away home. Her parents will employ her in the liquor business. She is better off looking after kids here”

If I look at the alternative… sold off to brothels… prostitution… begging… maybe Rita will have a better life working for the filthy rich. Or will she? I wonder!!!