The stories in Kailash Satyarthi’s book Why Didn’t You Come Sooner unveil a reality that is often invisibilized, putting forward an essential question even as we celebrate the 75th Independence Day: Who is independent after all? Chittajit Mitra reviews.
With Mahatma Gandhi as his inspiration, Kailash Satyarthi founded Bachpan Bachao Aandolan in 1980 and since then he has been working tirelessly for social justice and equality especially for children stuck in modern day slavery. With decades spent in the field to rescue such children, Satyarthi has come across some really heartbreaking stories which reveal the ugly realities behind the so-called development. It took him 12 years to complete this book which first came out in Hindi with the title ‘Tum Pehle Kyu Nahi Aaye?’ and now in English as ‘Why Didn’t You Come Sooner?’ (published by Speaking Tiger). The book consists of stories of the children saved from slavery and their struggle to break free.
In the title story, an adivasi woman pleads Satyarthi to save the bonded labourers at a quarry in Bhiwani, Haryana. It was 2012 when they planned and raided the quarry in Bhiwani and were able to save about 40 people including children. While most of them were put in a truck, he carried some children in the car he was driving and passed around bananas. To his surprise, the children were unable to even recognize what the fruit was and tried to eat it without peeling it. After he taught them the correct way to eat that fruit, a child asked him, “Why didn’t you come sooner?”
This question was not just for Satyarthi but for us as a nation which failed that child and keeps on doing so. Similarly, the so-called educated class isn’t any better either. Bonded child labour for domestic work is unfortunately quite a normalized thing in our country where children from marginalized class and castes are brought from extremely poor families and are forced to work without any proper care. In the story The Opening and Closing of Doors, Satyarthi takes us through the life of Ashraf, who was tortured at a senior government official’s home where he was kept as a bonded domestic labourer from the tender age of 10. He goes on to narrate how people in powerful positions can act to elevate themselves above the law, but the quest for justice must go on.
These stories unveil a reality that is often invisibilized, putting forward an essential question even as we celebrate the 75th Independence Day: Who is independent after all? Is just existing in a country enough to be considered as free citizens?
Conferred with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, Kailash Satyarthi’s work remains a necessity as we continuously fail our children. While his work inspires people to keep on fighting to create a just world, this book helps to focus on the stories of the former slaves and make sure that our generation is the last to see such evil practices exist in our society.
Walk into your nearest bookstore to read it or Whatsapp +91.8800200280 to order. Buy the book(s) and the coffee’s on us.