The Liquor Shop Kid


Sanjana Keerthi pens an eye-opening tale that will hit you where it hurts the most

The rains had started and the streets of Chennai were the most distressful to walk through. It was during such a time, while walking meticulously through the obstacle course of one such street, I crossed a local liquor store (which somehow always remains filled with customers even through the cruddiest of weathers). In front of this liquor shop, I saw the unlikeliest of customers. I stood still in my tracks, just wondering if the stress of navigating through the streets were playing tricks on my mind.

It, disappointingly, wasn’t.

This ‘unlikely customer’ looked just about three or four years old and he stood carrying, in his cute little hands, a water packet and a plastic cup. I froze in my tracks, resisting the urge to carry the boy away to safety. I watched on as my mind screamed, ‘NO.NO. This can’t be’.

I looked on as the boy stood so patiently and finally approached an elderly man (Did he work there??? God forbid that be his Grandfather!) and held out the plastic cup. This elderly man opened a glass bottle of golden brown liquid and poured it into the cup while the little boy watched on, politely holding out the packet of water.

There I stood, thinking: I can’t do anything because it is not safe for a girl my age and in this society to go anywhere near a liquor store! What if the boy is the grandson of the man? Then would it be my business? If the boy was employed there, how do I get the owner to understand that what he is doing is wrong? Even if I could pull the boy out of that situation, what should I do?’

So what did I do? I did not stand there further to see the rest of the scene. The feeling of knowing that something is not right and that I could not do anything about it frustrated me so I, like the rest of the public, walked on. As I walked past, I tried to turn back and pointedly look at the boy with the hope that another male or an older female member of the sober crowd walking by would probably see what I was looking at and do what I could not do; help the boy. Two things happened: my plan worked and then it failed. Well-dressed women hurrying back from their offices turned to have a glance at the boy, and it failed in that none of them even stopped to wonder if anything could be done about it. Has the public been so sensitized to such a scene?

I came home, unable to sleep. Something disturbed me. Perhaps it could be the fact that I was a woman with a particular affinity for toddlers, but I still could not shake the image out of my mind. The fact that I couldn’t do anything about it or for the boy was part of my anger, but there was another, louder and even helpless part that made me feel even worse.

The voice that spoke told me a fact that we refuse to understand. The upcoming generations are all educated and socially aware. This has only allowed us to recognize when something is wrong with a situation. In this era where the younger generations speak so much about empowerment and the need to stand up for rights, I felt sad that I was not empowered to know what to do in that situation. Neither me, nor any of my similar aged on-lookers knew how to deal with it. That was when I realized that education is such a waste unless we are taught how to use it and act. Empowerment is not just knowing and arguing for or against a view point, but acting to make those views reality. Unfortunately, we are not empowered in all instances.


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