Love in a Backpack

GIVE THEM WINGS AND LET THEM SOAR! On the journey back from Rajouri, Kashmir to Jammu, as I peeped out my car window, the small town of Nagrota came into view. A semi urban—mostly military— settlement, Nagrota was unequivocally beautiful. We stopped there for our regular “Chai/paani,” it had been hours of travel, of course. I recall being in the fifth grade then, my Maa had told me to get coffee for her, and as I ambled with ₹300, in my hand, and ordered, a small child—shorter than I, dressed in bedraggled rags, and no slippers came up behind the vendor and picked up the demitasses and begun placing them in a carrying rack for my mother. I politely offered to help, unwitting of the practice being known as child labour. I half-hoped for a yes so, I could talk to someone my age, because in my mind, we could be friends, right? The emaciated girl looked at me with wide doe eyes, frantically scanning my face and that of her—this, I hadn’t known until then— father. I was blatantly confused, until he shouted loud enough to make me startle, and the girl flinched and scurried away. I wasn’t too young to not understand fear when I saw it. But the desolation was a feeling entirely foreign to me. I walked back to my car, dragged down the window, and looked back to the shop— searching for my unknown friend. She was nowhere to be seen. Her countenance haunted me even when her form faded away into the distance. How many times have you seen something like this happen? Do you ever wonder how many others? How they might live? What they deal with daily? We live fairly privileged and close our eyes to anything that might disturb our “happy bubble,” justifying our feigned ignorance by saying,” Oh, it’s fate,” “Consider yourself lucky” and “I’m just one person, what can I do?” You may just be one person, you may not be able to uplift everyone in the world, but you will never ever be incapable of doing anything until you tell yourself so. If you can make just one other person’s life better, wouldn’t you? Small changes ripple. This is what we aim to do at YEF, we intend to promote our youth so that they can make our world better, more that it is and has been. Our youth hold all the potential in the world in their cosmic eyes. Let one more child’s dream come true.

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