Fardeen is diminutive, looking younger than his 14 years. He stares a lot at his hands which are scarred from the work he did as a child labourer in a garment factory.
Hailing from a village in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Fardeen was brought at the age of 11 to Delhi by a hotel owner. The boy was promised a good salary and a better life in the city.
“I got several scrapes and injuries at my work in the factory. You can see some of the scars yourself. Some are from scissor cuts, some from beatings — we were beaten by whatever the owner could lay his hand on,” says Fardeen tearfully.
Fardeen was rescued, together with five other children, by the NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement).
Fardeen feels safe and happy at the BBA’s boys home Mukti Ashram: “It feels like home. Everyone loves us here.”
He told me that he can finally be a child to do whatever he wants, play various games like football or cricket, and study in the classroom.
“We live like friends and brothers here, no fights nor scoldings. We get food and get to eat in peace. We bathe and sleep on time.”
Fardeen wants to study and become a doctor so he can treat poor people for free. But even as he look towards the future, he misses his sister: “I have an older sister who is married. My parents have passed away. My sister and I are very close and she is very protective towards me. She is the only person I can call my own now. I have paternal uncles, but they are busy in their own lives and don’t really care about me or love me. I will stay here, study and take care of my sister when I start earning.”
Fardeen is positive. “Everyone who comes here (Mukti Ashram) leaves as a good person, even if they were naughty, mischievous when they first came here. I believe I have become a better person after coming here… One becomes a good person in the company of good persons.”