তুই কারে বেশি ভালোবাসিস রে ?
আমি ? ত’রে….মা’রে….বাবা’রে..
সবচেয়ে বেশি কারে ভালোবাসিস ?
মা’রে…এই না না…ত’রে
[whom do you love the most?/ me? you…mom…dad /whom do you love the most?/mom…oh no no…you/you?/dad..]
At an age when innocence showers love, at an age when simplicity enhances values of life, at an age when poverty can’t take away their smile, at that age of learning alphabets and starting to know their world, two kids Gopal and Chhotu was on the verge of losing their father. Their father was in his death bed after meeting with a deadly accident and family was on the brink of death by starving.
Bengali poet has expressed this feeling –
ক্ষুধার রাজ্যে পৃথিবী গদ্যময় –
পূর্ণিমা চাঁদ যেন ঝলসানো রুটি ।।
[“in the world of hunger, even full moon seems to be food item”].
The fate of two starving brothers Gopal and Chhotu was sealed in their father’s accident and their studies stopped immediately. A family that was on the verge of extinction due to poverty, could not afford the luxury of education, even when schools provided free meals to the children.
There were four hungry beings in their family and the obvious choice of Gopal’s mother was to send Gopal to work in Mahadev’s shop. But Mahadev was away from village and so Gopal could not start working immediately. At the age of getting his primary lessons (sahaj path), Gopal had to take up the responsibilities of a provider.
Then came Janmashtami (celebration of birth anniversary of Lord Sri Kr’sna) in a rich Brahmin family in the village. Gopal and Chhotu heard that they would celebrate Janmashtami in a grand manner and invite the whole village for a grand feast. Gopal knew that তাল (Palmyra) is extensively used to prepare different food items on this occasion and made plans to sell some to that family for some income. But his brother Chhotu thought if they took money for Palmyra they would not get any invitation, so, he offered four Palmyra to them fee of cost….and kept waiting for the invitation.
The wait was eternal, little Chhotu who was starving almost daily; was then dreaming of a grand feast every moment. That invitation never came through but the day of Janmashtami came by. When other kids of the village were going to the feast, Chhotu and Gopal were still not invited. On the day of Janmashtami (birthday celebration of Lord Kr’sna), when the whole village had a grand feast, Gopal (other name of Lord Kr’sna) remained hungry.
They went out for playing when Gopal told Chhotu that their mother had decided to send him to Mahadev’s shop for working. At an age of taking basic education Gopal was all set to be provider. His society had pushed him to take up that role too early in his life. So, when Chhotu asked him who he loved the most, Gopal said he loved his dad the most.
‘Dad’, a relation that is hardly appreciated and respected the way ‘moms’ get respect, love, care and attention. A ‘dad’ can give the much-needed security, the much-needed ease, freedom and choices of child’s life. We understand this when that support suddenly vanishes. A dad is a promise to the security of a family, he is the motivation to take up new challenges, he is the shield to the innocence of children, their freedom of choice. Absence of a dad, forces kids to kill their wishes early in life. They stare at other kids of their age going to school, play together and enjoy free meals provided in their schools, when these kids struggle to keep hunger of the family away.
Sahaj Pather Gappo (সহজ পাঠের গপ্পো) is a film inspired by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s story Talnabami. This film is directed by Manas Mukul Pal and produced by Avijit Saha. The two child actors in the movie Nur Islam (as Chhotu) and Samiul Alam (as Gopal) were awesome from all aspects of acting. Their natural acting ability coupled with a very natural rural Bengali accent and right display of emotions will be alive for a long time in the Movie lovers’. Rightfully, this movie has won the Rajat Kamal Award in the Best Child Actor category in 2016, apart from winning accolades in many national and international film festivals.
Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay had placed Bengali movie industry in the world scenario when Satyajit Ray made Pather Panchali based on Bibhutibhushan’s story; this new masterpiece from Manas Mukul Pal reminds us of that era as different shades of our rural life come alive in a beautiful mix innocence, artistry and crude realities of life. The story reflects the social condition of poor village boys in pre-independence era which is valid even today.
This movie will also be etched permanently in many minds for highlighting a very important problem facing a large section of Indian society. The problem is not discussed often. More so, the feminist driven social policies do not want to address this issue at all. That is the issue of child labour and reduced childhood (or early adulthood) of our boys.
In simple terms, a child who is gainfully employed before 14 years of age is called ‘child labor’. According to some reports Indian govt. amended child labor laws in 2016 to allow children below 14 years to work in family business and in entertainment industry (barring circus) keeping the socio-economic condition of many families in mind. And most of these child laborers are boys, a concern that is not adequately highlighted.
While child labor and reduced childhood is a concern for both genders, the problem is more for boys but govt. policies are focused on girls. Boys are more often sent to hazardous industry (85% child labor there are boys). The main failure is on the part of WCD ministry, which is entrusted with this work, their focus on girls is preventing them to work for boys.
Sitting in AC multiplexes and munching on highly expensive Nachos, Pop Corn and sipping super expensive coffee, we have spared some tears for Gopal and Chhotu when they were crying for a grain of rice, when they remained hungry and took up odd, risky jobs. We see them every day around us working in tea-stalls, hotels, shops and even on streets. They don’t understand feminism or meninism, all they want is little bit of life. The movie সহজ পাঠের গপ্পো can help us taking a step towards that. The problem of sending boys to work early in their life, should not remain wrapped up in the glitters of national and international awards. This movie, সহজ পাঠের গপ্পো reminds us of our responsibility to act on this issue immediately.
*According to the latest Education Statistics of MHRD, in 2014-15 approximately 49% primary boys in Upper Primary (VI-VIII) and 42% Upper Primary boys in Secondary (IX-X) has dropped out of our education system.