Updated: Jun 27, 2021
Story by Malleshwar Rao
My brother and I used to see our parents stay hungry so that we could eat those nights. We had no option. We were poor. If our father could not work on the daily labour that day, everyone would have to stay hungry that night. He just earned ₹80 per day. It was a do or die situation, and I was only 5 years old. Small and helpless.
I was born into one of the families of the village with a comfortable income, based entirely on farming. However, we suddenly plunged into extreme poverty because of sudden erratic rainfall.
Our childhood was stolen from us, by poverty.
I grew up as a child forced into child labour due to poverty. My brother and I were discriminated against for being poor. People used to shut their doors at us, the elders forbade the youngers from playing with us because we looked poor. All we knew was that we must work, to support the family.
One day, the owner of the shop, where my brother and I used to work as a child, beat us publicly. The reason was that we went out to have fun and play during work hours.
During that incident, an elderly person noticed us. He was a teacher at a nearby school. He stopped the owner’s bashing. Later, after a few days of following us, the teacher showed up at our house. I thought he was here to complain against us, for getting into trouble. But he had actually come to help us!
He convinced our parents to let us join an NGO providing free education. This person changed the course of our lives by this random act of kindness.
Until I joined school, I used to feel as if my life was the worst but when I met the others at school, I felt gravely mistaken. Many of them were children of sex workers or ‘devdasi’ children. After talking to others over the years, I gained unimaginable perspectives and I realised that my problems were nothing as compared to many of the children here. I wrote a lot about things I heard, in my diary everyday.
I felt a little grateful for the little moments of joy I already had in life, even though I was poor. Also, it felt good that I was not alone at least, being in this island of suffering.
When I passed school, I started part time work at ‘ashrams’ to support my family and afford my further education.
The idea of further education was put into our minds by my teacher, the same person who helped me join school when I was a kid. I am in unending debt to him, for changing my life, as well as my brother’s.
I worked hard and cleared EAMCET to gain an All India Rank of under 20,000. Even though I was qualified for CBIT, which was one of the best engineering colleges of Hyderabad at that time, I chose to join a different college after hearing that CBIT had students who used to come to college in cars and wear good clothes. I joined a college in Hyderabad which had more middle-class students like me, even though I was getting a better college like CBIT.
When my B. Tech years began, I had no money to buy the stationery for my lab classes at college, and I had to accept the punishment they gave every time. I even wore 2nd hand or 3rd hand clothes.
Who knew how things would turn out for me?! I hoped everyday before going to sleep, that there was a better future waiting for me. That was the only thing keeping me going.