Child labour to combat child marriage?

As the eldest child, I have always wondered how my life would have been with an elder brother or sister. I would have preferred a sister. I don’t need anyone to teach me how to be naughty, and definitely don’t want a big brother stopping me from doing what I want to do. Trust me, if that imaginary brother was anything like I am, there would be constant fight.

An elder sister on the other hand would have been great. I won’t have to worry about her stopping me from doing anything, but I can depend on some sound advice and comfort whenever I need it. But, it could be the other way too. But that is hypothetical.

It is strange for me to think about such things, but I happened to think of someone, and that triggered these thoughts. The person I thought about was the closest I had to an elder sister. Yes, I got a few cousins who are older. But they are much older than me, and we so seldom meet that I consider them as relatives rather than sisters.

The person that came to my mind was Rani, or Ranichechi. Rani translates to queen, and chechi literally means elder sister. She was from Tamil Nadu and stayed with my grandmother to help her with her housework. Though she was a servant, she used to go to school every day. I was pretty young when I met her, around 20 year back, and she must have been around 13 or 14 at that time.

I didn’t have anyone near my own age in 2 or 3 km radius and did not know any other kid within 80 kilometres. My cousin did not come along for the vacation until later and left pretty shortly. I tagged along after her though that summer and also during the next few vacation, while she went around doing her job. She listened to me rambling on and on about something or the other, even when it was a big lie. I guess I was more talkative as a child. She used to tell stories (she did have a knack for telling ghost stories) and generally acted like a big sister, though I never realized that at that time.

But that was not the reason I thought about her. I don’t feel a sense of loss, nor do I feel sad. If I were any more stoic, I would be Vulcan. Something made me think of the last time I saw her, when someone came to take her back home. The reason they gave was her mother was not well, but she did confess to my grandmother that this time, she might not return and was pretty sad about leaving. She bid all of us a tearful good bye, and I, as usual stayed unemotional.

Later my grandmother found that she was taken to be married off to someone, and I guess it pained my grandmother. Among the many children that came to work for my grandmother, she was by far her favourite, and everyone else’s too.

As I grew older and realized that child labour was a crime, I began to wonder whether it was right of my grandmother, a very pious woman, to make those children work for her. Till today I could not justify it. But a few hours back, I realized those girls were better off with my grandmother than at their homes.

Any parent who would force a child into marriage does not deserve to be a parent. My grandmother, by providing them with an education, faith and protection did what most orphanage struggle to do. And the amount of work that she demanded was not any harder than she demanded off her own children. I, on the other hand being her grandson, favourite grandson, got off with hardly any work.

The question is; would you support child labour if that will prevent child marriage?

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