Light shone through his tattered t-shirt

Blistered fingers holding onto his friends’

There were 5

Each holding onto each other in one way

The small one held the other’s pinky finger

Some held the rim of their trousers

All connected by thread and fear


His hair was tussled

Not by affection

But by the harsh wind

Knocking him out of school

The debts

His parents

The house

The harsh reality

Rendered him with no schooling

Now he stood in a circle of his friends

5 boys

Some tall, some short

Their fingers lingering on the other

The shortest one tugging onto the others trousers


We saw them

Their eyes glinted with tears

As though the sweat of their worn out soul

Glistening at the world


We saw them before we saw him

He walked in

No, strutted in

Hit the boy’s head with a sack

While his face was smiling

As thought a friendly gesture

His fingers were counting the money these kids would make

His eyes were glinting too

With tears

The tears of his soul watching him become foul


His eyes wavering

Like he was reading

While this man could read

He knew they couldn’t

No contract, no official documents

“the money will go to your family”


The kids were illiterate

Not dumb

They knew something was off

and we saw their instinct yelling at them to run

to go save themselves

but this was the time for us to enter


Dharbanga Railway Station

The juncture of many

The departure and arrival

These kids were missing

We took them into our wing

Forever fooled by elders


They don’t need to know about the traffickers

Or his plan

They needed schooling and education

This train too them to their homes


The children still believe

It was fate

A different train

A different destination

Form fear to school


Railway children


They believed that man’s words

Too soon too much


We were on time

They are children after all


Aren’t they?


Nandhitha Babuji is a 18-year-old aspiring poet from Tamil Nadu, passionate about using her words to show solidarity against children’s issues.