Suhail is 12. Remember Bubli? He's her little brother.
He's not a shy boy. When he speaks, he looks straight into your eyes. He speaks with calm confidence and is determined to go back to mainstream education as quickly as possible. "I'm going into the 4th standard now. Am preparing for entrance tests and will go to regular school now."
And before this?
"I worked at a doctor's house before this. His name was Raman Khanna. It was in Madhuban Chowk. I cleaned the house, washed his car, did the dishes, helped in the kitchen. Also, cleaned shoes and looked out for the kids, delivered tiffins. They gave me their leftovers. The wife would gather up all that was left on their plates and give it to me."
There were beatings too. More severe in winter, since the boy found it harder to wake up early. Can you imagine being dragged out of bed, dragged by the hair, on cold mornings?
I notice, Suhail has shaved his head now.
"The doctor would hit me. When he left for work, his wife would begin. She too used a stick. The doctor threatened to stop my food. And he did. Often, I'd go without food. I didn't get the money anyway. My aunt took it. I didn't have a single penny. They said I didn't clean properly, but it wasn't my fault. The door faced the open street. I cleaned in the morning, but by afternoon, everything would be dusty again."
Like his sister, he wasn't allowed to go home. "They wouldnt even let me step out of the house. Threatened to break my legs if I went out. Once, the doctor hit me on my nose. It bled for three days. They said that if I screamed loudly, they'd hit even harder. Once, I thought of hitting back, but they were so big. I was afraid they would kill me and nobody would even come to know. I used to cry softly, cry for my mother."
The inexplicable harshness of the middle class with respect to servants shows up in different ways. With Suhail, it was the curious situation where he was made to sleep under the employers' bed, and in later months, in the kitchen. This, despite the fact that there were six rooms in the house.
I asked whether he was ever given treats or gifts, but in the one and a half years that he worked there, he was not given even one pair of new clothes.
I was not surprised when Suhail said that he wanted to become a cop.