A Unique Friendship
"Yippee!" shouted Karthik , at the top of his voice, as he came rushing home and flung his school bag on the sofa. Bhuvana , his mother, was disgusted with his careless attitude of throwing his things around. She chided him for being careless. " Aw, come on , Maa. Today, I am very happy. Please don't spoil my mood by scolding." Bhuvana asked" May I know the reason for your happiness?"
Karthik told her that, as a part of their social science project,they were going to visit a chocolate factory to see how chocolates are made and that students were not required to pay any fee. Bhuvana smiled and said," Very well. Please be careful and try not to do any mischief. Last time, when you went to picnic with your classmates, you had injured your ankle by doing a futile somersault to display your acrobatic skill."
Karthik' glared at his mother and muttered to himself, "Oh! These mothers can be so sissy at times. Advising me as if I am a baby."
The next morning, Karthik got ready for his school. Exactly at 11.30 a.m. the grade 9 students of Mother Valley International (Karthik’s class) left for their visit to Kay Kay chocolate factory.
The factory manager, Mr. Kapil Kumar received the enthusiastic students along with their class teacher Mrs. Sunita Gupta with a warm smile. He greeted everyone and said , “Hello, everyone. It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you all to Kay Kay chocolate factory. I hope you will all learn and enjoy watching how yummy chocolates are made.”
The children jumped with joy as the manager took them around and explained how chocolates are made. The tour lasted for nearly 2 hours. They were given cool drinks and chocolates to eat. Karthik was relishing the taste of the divine chocolate. Suddenly he realized that a pair of eyes was watching him hungrily. He turned around and saw a boy of his age staring at him from the window.
He went near him but the boy signaled him not to talk loudly. Karthik asked him “Who are you? Why are you asking me not to speak loudly to you?” The boy replied” My name is Manohar. I am 14 year old and I work here as a labourer.” Karthik was dumbfounded on hearing this. He stammered and said ,”B..But..Th..This is totally illegal. Your Employer could be arrested and face legal consequences.”
“Yes. I know but I have been forced to work here because of my drunkard father Madan. Some men from this factory came looking for cheap labor to pack their finished goods and load it into trucks for dispatching them to the wholesaler. They met my father on the way who was staggering all around and lured him with a country liquor and promised to provide more if he could arrange for a local help at a meager salary. “ Said Manohar sadly. The boy who should be in school was forced to drop out and work as a child laborer. His melancholic eyes seemed to tell Karthik that he was not given proper food and his stomach growled in hunger. Karthik was filled with both, sympathy and anguish, on seeing the plight of this child . He offered him his bar of chocolate and asked him “ How on earth, did you manage to sneak out?” The boy answered, “I came out on the pretext of going to washroom and climbed out of the ventilator of the toilet.” “Good.” Said Karthik and asked if they were more children employed to which he got the answer in affirmative.
“I will have to help these innocent people out. How cunning is the manager. Pretending to be a good Samaritan but actually a wolf in a sheep’s skin.”He thought. He told Manohar to hide inside his school van and that he would inform his class teacher about the situation and rescue him as well as the other children. Manohar did as he was told meanwhile Karthik rushed to join his classmates . Mrs. Sunita was fuming and admonished him by saying,” Where the hell , have you been Karthik? Do you know we were frantically searching for you .” Karthik apologized and apprised his class teacher about all that had happened. She was shocked beyond words and asked Karthik not to accuse any one without proof.
Karthik told her” Madam, Manohar is hiding inside our school van. You can ask him everything you want to know about the plight of other children. But only after we leave. If these guys get any whiff about the boy’s escape or our future course of action, the lives of all the children will be endangered.” Sunita nodded and approached the manager. She thanked him profusely and said that the time for their departure had come. The manager accompanied them till the gate and saw that everyone had got back into their van. He returned with an evil smile lurking around his lips.
Once the van was out of sight, Karthik called out Manohar to come out of his hiding. Manohar filled in all the details of his terrible experience and also of other children who were facing the same situation. Mrs. Sunita was aghast but said that she will take care of Manohar ‘s education and will arrange for his stay in a hostel for children. Since Karthik’s father was a police inspector, Karthik on his part , promised that he will help other children to be freed and see to it that the criminal is punished.
Later , that evening, Karthik filled in his father with all the details that Manohar had given. Karthik’s father Arun Kumar , then raided Kay Kay chocolate factory, the very next day and rescued all the other children who were then sent to Children’s home. The bewildered Manager was arrested and the factory was closed down.
Karthik conveyed this good news to Mrs. Sunita , over the phone, who lauded him for his bravery , his helping tendency and presence of mind. This news was published in all the newspaper and Karthik suddenly became a hero . He also gave the credit for this adventure to Manohar. The latter came to know about the rescue and was jumping with joy. He called Karthik and thanked him for his big help.
“Don’t mention it, pal. It was you who made me a hero.” Said Karthik as the two became best friends.