He went on to clean the table. He picked up the dirty dishes and swept away the left overs.
He moved his head back and observed the table at a distance.After making sure that it was indeed clean, he made a clicking sound with his tongue to grab the attention of the waiting customers.It was lunch time and the busiest time in the dhaba.
He signalled them to sit and gave them a mock salute.
“Salaam saab,aap kya loge?”he asked monotonously and continued to blurt out the menu at their request.
He went about taking orders, cleaning tables, serving food, reciting the orders to the cook and the accoutant and occasionally grinning at the few customers who had given him a good tip ;using his signature mock salute to express his gratitude.
In the evening he collected his daily wages and changed to cleaner clothes.He was very hard working and earned a good amount , both as wages and tips.He was planning to open a Dhabba of his own as soon as he had saved enough.He was only 12 and was earning enough to feed his family.He was very proud of that. The dhaba owner treated him well and trusted him a lot.
There was a hotel near by the dhaba. As business in the dhaba was flourishing, the hotel started running on loss. In an attempt to survive, the hotel owner tipped off the authorities about the practice of child labor in the Dhaba.
And then one day they came for inspection -The big saabs. His employer ran out to greet them
“Namaste” -he said with folding hands.
They were from the child welfare department and wanted to check if an underage worked there.The dhaba owner looked terrified and assured that it was wrong information. The officials spotted the boy and went on to interrogate him. The boy and the owner tried lying that he was actually 15, but couldn’t convince the officials.
The owner was arrested and the boy taken away by the NGO.
The Dhaba owner had to pay a good amount of ransom to the officers to hush down the incident.The Dhaba resumed business as usual within two days- with a new waiter.
The boy was allowed to go home. After a week, unable to stand hunger ,he went back to the dhaba to reclaim his old job.He greeted the owner with his usual mock salute and a ‘Salaam‘ and was heartbroken to learn that he no longer had the job. He cried,begged, but the owner would not bulge.He did not want to take another chance.
The boy enquired around in all near by Dhabas and shops, but everybody had heard about the ordeal of his previous employer.
From the next week the boy started going to work in the fire cracker factory for a much lower pay.