It was hot. She sponged away the beads of sweat from her neck and waited for the traffic light to turn red.The child was still asleep. It would hopefully remain that way for the next few hours. Her hand was stiff from the weight of its limp body.She reluctantly glanced at its face.The stain of tears still marked those soiled cheeks. She felt a rush of sympathy towards the helpless creature. Do they feed it anything at all, she wondered as she caressed its skinny body. She involuntarily covered its head with her sari, wishing the piece of cloth would shield it not only from the heat but also from every other force lingering out there to harm it.
As soon as the lights turned red, she began her work. The traffic was heavy as always. Over years she had learned a few tips and tactics for this job of hers.She had mastered the art of invoking sympathy even in the coldest heart. A glance at the pitiful infant was more than enough to melt most of the hearts. The child was the trump card.She just had to play her side role. A mother, eyes filled with guilt and impotence, helplessly struggling to keep her child alive.Who could ignore such a sad spectacle? The look on her face would haunt the ones who dared to look away, the others who handed her a few coins would go away wondering if they had done a little too less.This is how she earned her living,leeching on other’s conscience.

She walked over to the shade of the over-bridge waiting for the next red light.The child squirmed a little. Was it going to wake up? She hoped not.They had instructed her what to do in case it did,but she didn’t want to do the inhumane act. She had only used the white powder once and the guilt had not let her sleep for days.Thankfully it went back to sleep and she sighed in relief. She bundled the coins and the odd notes into her cloth pouch as she braced herself for another round of emotional exploitation.

They handed over a child to her every morning, sometime the same one as the previous day,sometimes a new one.This child has been accompanying her for the past few weeks. There were a few others before that . She did not know what had happened to them.She tried hard not to care about those unlucky children.After all they were just props, devices to earn sympathy!But she often spent her nights wondering if they were still alive.She glanced at the helpless child in her arms.It was holding on to the drape of her sari.Did it have a mother? Did its parents willingly give it way or were they still crying over their lost child?

As it began to get darker, she made her way back.The child was now awake and was greedily sucking onto the bottle of milk that she had bought for it,perhaps its only meal for the day. She hugged it tight as she rushed back into the building. They would be waiting for her.She would have to tear the child off from her arms and return it to those monsters. Did she dare to save this child, this one child? Did she dare to take it home and protect it ? Her pace slowed as she caught the glimpse of the old building.Did she dare?

For a moment she thought she would do it, that she would finally sleep that night without remorse.But the picture of the shack that she called home flashed before her. Four kids of her own, the ones she had borne in her womb.They would not have eaten anything.They would be waiting for her,their eyes glued on to the road.The very thought was enough to fasten her strides.

She entered the building, gave them the pouch.She rocked the child patiently as they counted the money.They grunted and passed down her share for the day. One of them yanked the child away from her. It screamed in pain. For a moment she froze on to her spot.Would she see this child again? But she had mouths to feed.She had to go. As she turned back,the shriek of the infant echoed in her ears.She never looked back, she just kept walking.

 This post was written as a part of this week’s speakeasy,over at yeah write.


37 thoughts on “Conscience

  1. Hey nice to see a lot f comments on ur blog……wel lookin at ur comments section in a diff way after reading ur “spamming”….:-)

    As for de blog itself….defntly nt among de best f ur wrks….:-P

  2. Really creative take on the prompt and one that poses difficult choices. I love that you never identify the child as “he” or “she” — only “it.”

  3. What an emotional story. I, too, like the way she refers to the child as “it” in order to stay detached. And I love the way you show us her internal struggle between doing what is right in the bigger scheme of things versus what’s right for her and her family. Well done!

  4. This is such an emotional story and it has left me with conflicting thoughts. On the one hand I wonder how she could give the baby back, being uncertain about his/her future. Between that and the deceiving of people with the act, I think she’s been able to compartmentalize her conscience pretty well. On the other hand, she already has many children to take care of, the burden of one more would make things even more difficult.

  5. A horribly sad write…and unfortuantly still something that happens in our magnificent 21st century. You’ve handled this subject well infusing your character with life.

  6. Well, it’s good to see people are finally taking cognizance of the atrocities that prevail in our otherwise ’emerging’ nation. People are born as paupers and consider misery as fait accompli. Their class is often upbraided for cursing fortunes and not doing anything about it. But Alas! the wrath of sheer indigence tarries on and keeps them from breaking their shackles. You’ve wonderfully elucidated an ordeal that we think we help them with everyday by throwing a mere shilling.

    Tushar Kumar Singh
    Project Disavowed

    1. I have been told that giving alms to these beggars with kids do them more harm that good…but how can one just walk away pretending to not see…it is indeed an emotional challenge….I wish there was something we could do to help the kids as well as the others

      1. Yep, it’s more to their detriment than our supposed altruism. The money that we hand to small children specifically on the pretext of helping them out, goes to fund their masters’ snorting pleasures. Ironically, despite this being a well known fact, we escape responsibility in the easiest way possible. We fear the prospect of not doing anything and end up doing more harm. We can surely do something by spreading awareness at first and maybe this is something that deems much more consideration and planning post that. 🙂

        Tushar Kumar Singh
        Project Disavowed

        1. I agree, though we are warned about the exploitation of these infants, we seldom take any action….the few coins we give away may be the easiest way our conscience has conjured to evade the guilt…i wish there was an efficient child helpline that one could call..

  7. This was a powerful post narrating the story of thousands of women and children all over the country stuck in the big cities with no choice but to beg to survive.

    Lovely narrative, took us readers into the life of the beggar with ease.

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