Pradip was only 16 years of age when he decided to leave home for good. At that time, he was studying in the ninth standard in the village school.
Pradip’s father was a teacher in the school. His income was only sufficient enough to get them the basic needs of life.
In many of the households of that village, kids were usually taken off from the school and sent to work in factories in the nearby town of Sivakasi ( a town in southern India popular for fireworks production) to supplement the family income. But, however difficult the circumstances were, Pradip’s father never allowed his son’s education to be hampered.
Pradip however took a dim view of this. The inability to have the desired things always left him frustrated. He was convinced that if he stayed in the village, his life would also end up dreary, like his father’s.
So, one day, just a month before Diwali (Festival of lights), he left home and went to Sivakasi. He got a job in the fireworks factory, which was recruiting casual laborers for the ensuing festival.
He had heard that the work was hard. But, he was not worried. He had no plans of staying in Sivakasi permanently. Once he had accumulated some money, he planned to try his luck in Chennai. (A major metropolis of southern India)
The factory laborers were provided with dormitory facility near the factory itself. Pradip being usually worn out at the end of the day’s work returned there to settle in his bunk.
He did not talk much with others. But, there was an elderly man whom he liked very much. The man had four sons who were also working in the same factory.
One day while they were having a chat, the elderly man asked him, “Pradip, you are quite young. What are your plans for the future?”
Pradip told him about his plans to go to Chennai.
“But Pradip, if you study for two more years you will complete tenth standard. Afterwards you could enter some polytechnic and then your future would be better.”
“Uncle, it’s of no use to study further. I have seen semi-illiterate people in my village doing much better than my father.”
“Pradip, you are so wrong. Let me tell you about my life. You will be surprised to know I was the previous owner of this factory. In the beginning, everything was going very well. I gave my sons whatever they asked for. I did not care when they dropped out of school, very early in life. I thought when they grew up they could take care of the factory. However, the cycle changed and I lost everything in a mishap in the factory. My sons were by then had grown up but had no education. So, we had no option but to do manual labor here. Not a day has gone by since, without my ruing over how I had spoilt the future of my sons.”
Tears were rolling down the man’s cheek as he was narrating his life story. Pradip was shocked to the core of his heart.
Three days before Diwali the factory made payment to its laborers. Each one of them was given a gift hamper of sweets & firecrackers, personally by the owner’s son, Aditya, who had recently returned after completing his studies in Chennai. The laborers were also given a week’s holiday for celebrating Diwali with their family.
Pradip returned to his village, a changed man. Alighting from the bus he distributed the sweets and firecrackers among the village destitute.
He then entered his home, gave his entire earnings to his father and fell at his feet.
“Father, forgive me. I will stay here and continue my studies.”
Meanwhile in Sivakasi, Aditya was told by his father, “Son, I have become old. Now it is your turn to take over the reins of the factory.”
“Father, kindly listen to what I’m going to say. Today I was pained to see a lot of child laborers in our fireworks factory. I know they do not have the means to go to school. But, we have a lot of money. So, I have decided to close the factory and construct a school for the destitute with vocational training so that in future they will be able to stand on their own feet. We will compensate the regular workers so that they can find other means of living. Father, we have taken so much from these people. It is time to return”
That Diwali the lights seemed to shine brighter in the houses of Pradip & Aditya, as if to indicate that here was the light that would lead others from darkness to enlightenment.