In any country of the world poor people do not know what an easy and pleasant life is. They have to work hard to pay for housing and eat at least once a day. It is a good luck if their children have the opportunity to go to school, but more often they also have to work no less hard than their parents. The protagonist of this story is Krishna. He is one of those unlucky children. He works in an Indian cigarette factory. He works very well, as he has small hands and thin dexterous fingers. He cannot write, but can count up to one thousand five hundred. This is exactly the number of cigarettes that he must produce per one working day. If he wakes up early, he can play for an hour, before the sunrise. And after the working day he can’t do it, because it’s already dark on the street.
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Nimble Fingers by Anuradha Muralidharam
Life is never easy for the poor. They have to work long hours just to get a roof over their heads and one meal a day. If their children are lucky, they go to school. If they are not lucky, they have to work.
Krishna, who tells this story, is not lucky. He has to work in a factory making bee dies, a kind of Indian cigarette. He is a good worker, because his young fingers are small and quick and nimble…
I cannot read or write, but I can count, but only up 1500, because that is the number of bee dies that I need to make in a day. My life is easy to explain. If I wake up early, I can play for about one hour, or until the sun begins to light up the eastern sky. For that one hour, I am free – as free as the birds, which sit on the tree outside my home.
My home is a hut with a roof of dried leaves. It is very small, but the three of us can just sleep in it. And I go away really early and come back in the nights, so only my mother and my little sister are there in the day time.
In the nights, it is a bit crowded. When we sleep, my arm is often around little Thangachi, or Amma’s thin foot is resting on my leg, but it doesn’t matter.
The other day I asked Amma, ‘How old am I?’
She counted on her fingers. ‘Six.’
Six sounds very small when you think about 1500 bee dies. But Saami, the owner of the factory where I work, always says that I have nimble fingers.
That night, when we were having our meal outside our home, I asked Amma, ‘What does “nimble fingers” mean?’
‘It means your fingers are like Weaver-Maama’s fingers,’ she said. ‘When your uncle spins his cloth, have you seen how quickly his fingers move, pulling the threads this way and that way?’
I love to watch Weaver-Maama working, and now I am very happy because my fingers are like his.
I asked Amma one more question while we drank our rice soup.
‘Why do I have to work with Saami and not with Weaver-Maama?’
This question made Amma unhappy, and when she is unhappy, she hits her head with her open hand. The noise is very loud, and she goes on hitting her head again and again, making a ‘pat, pat, pat’ sound…