It’s a balancing act in real sense — between education and economics. They want to study and also know that prospects to realise their dream are better when the financial condition of the parents is sound. So, these kids don’t mind taking a few days off from school to help their parents earn some extra bucks during Diwali every year. Some of them are also those who have already quit schooling for obvious reason.
“I stopped attending school a week ago so that I could help my father earn some extra money during Diwali,” says Ajay, a Class 6 student of Government Model High School, Sector 23, as he set up shop to sell diyas at the Sector 22 market. Ajay isn’t the only one around. His friends, Megh and Reeshu, also students of the same school, sat on the adjoining pavement selling mats.
Majority of these kids are from the most underprivileged families whose only source of income is the wages of their father, in some cases, mother also. This correspondent found that among these ‘minor entrepreneurs’ are also school dropouts who couldn’t continue education owing to their families’ economic conditions. The second set is of the ones who take leave from school prior to Diwali to help their families make extra money by selling diyas, candles, photos and calendars of Gods and Goddesses, mats, among other things.
Mohit of Class 8 of Governtment Model High School, Maloya, has been selling rangoli colours in Sector 35 for the past five days and earns about Rs 250-300 daily. “I don’t like sitting here but as long as I can be of some help to my family, it’s ok,” says Mohit. His niece, Monica, on the other hand, spends time making hand-made candles and sell them around the Festival of Lights. “I thoroughly enjoy being here during this time of the year. Plus, I’ll get to buy new clothes from the extra earnings,” she says.
For 11-year-old Roshan, son of a daily wage earner, Diwali celebrations are synonym with selling mats. “My mother says our expenditures are increasing daily, so, if I help my parents at this stage, God will help me building a bright future.” Monica (Class 12) and Nandini (Class 6) from Dev Samaj School, Sector 21, Chandigarh, who have been selling goodies in Sector 19 without having any qualms. “These earnings will help us shop and make a trip to Himachal, where we will be able to take the blessings of our guru during Dala Puja,” says Monica.
Meanwhile, a disillusioned 15-year-old Rekha, resident of Dhanas, told HT, “I wish I could be as lucky as the customers of my age who don’t have to miss school and toil to make ends meet like us. My family sets up stall at the Sector 22 fair every Diwali and hardly manage to cover up expenditures.” Her father says they have to pay Rs 650 to MC to set up the stall for two days.