The Lost Spring
As we all know, spring is the season associated with optimism and hope. It also works as a metaphor for the childhood stage of our life. Right from the time we’re born until late childhood, every child hopes for new beginnings and a bright future. The phase of childhood is all about innocence, energy, and tremendous inclination towards outdoors activities along with fun and play. And playtime does not have any limits. It is also a time of getting more skill and knowledge.
The ‘Lost Spring’ written by Anees Jung talks about the national shame of children being forced to live a life of poverty and exploitation. The main two protagonists of the chapter, Saheb-e-Alam and Mukesh don’t live their childhood as they have to carry the burden of poverty and illiteracy. In their miserable stories of exploitation, the author provides glimpses of fortitude and resilience.
About the Author
Anees Jung is an Indian female author, journalist and columnist who writes for major newspapers in India and abroad. She was born in Rourkela and belongs to an aristocratic family in Hyderabad. Her father, Nawab Hosh Yar Jung, who was a renowned scholar and poet, worked as the musahib (adviser) to the last Nizam (prince) of Hyderabad State. And her mother and brother are also well-known Urdu poets.
Jung hit the headlines with the publication of ‘Unveiling India in 1987’, which is primarily a travel diary that focuses on interviews with women. She went on write many subsequent books on the same topic, and talked to women about their everyday lives, and wrote books like ‘Night of the New Moon: Encounters with Muslim women in India’ (1993) and Seven Sisters (1994). Her book ‘Breaking the Silence (1997) includes conversations on women’s lives from around the world.
The story, “Lost Spring” describes the pitiable condition of poor children who have been forced to miss the joy of childhood due to the socio-economic condition that prevails in this man-made world. These children are denied the opportunity of schooling and forced into labour early in life. Anees Jung gives voice to eliminate child labour by educating the children and to enforce the laws against child labour by the governments strictly. The call is to end child exploitation and let the children enjoy the days of the spring that bring joy under their feet.
I – Sometimes I find a rupee in the garbage.
The first part tells the writer’s impressions about the life of the poor rag pickers. The rag pickers have migrated from Dhaka and found a settlement in Seemapuri. Their fields and homes had been swept away by storms. They had come to the big city to find a living. They are poor. The writer watches Saheb every morning scrounging for “gold” in her neighbourhood. Garbage is a means of survival for the elders and for the children it is something wrapped in wonder. The children come across a coin or two from it. These people have desires and ambitions, but they do not know the way to achieve them. There are quite a few things that are unreachable to them, namely shoes, tennis and the like. Later Saheb joins a tea stall where he could earn 800 Rupees and all the meals. The job has taken away his freedom.
II – I want to drive a car.
The second part deals with the life of Mukesh, who belongs to the family of Bangle-makers. Firozabad is best known for its glass-blowing industry. Nearly 20,000 children are engaged in this business and the law that forbids child labour is not known here. The living condition and the working environment is a woeful tale. Life in dingy cells and working close to hot furnaces make these children blind when they step into the adulthood. Weighed down by the debt, they can neither think nor find a way to come of out of this trap. The politicians, middlemen, policemen and bureaucrats will all obstruct their way of progress. The women in the household consider it as their fate and just follow the tradition. Mukesh is different from the rest of the folk there. He dreams to become a motor mechanic. The garage is far away from his house but he shall walk.
Gist of the lesson:
Sometimes I find a rupee in garbage
The author examines and analyses the impoverished conditions and traditions that condemn children to a life of exploitation these children are denied an education and forced into hardships early in their lives.
The writer encounters Saheb – a rag picker whose parents have left behind the life of poverty in Dhaka to earn a living in Delhi.
His family like many other families of rag pickers lives in Seemapuri. They do not have other identification other than a ration card.
The children do not go to school and they are excited at the prospect of finding a coin or even a ten rupee note for rummaging in the garbage.
It is the only way of earning.
The writer is pained to see Saheb, a rag picker whose name means the ruler of earth, Lose the spark of childhood and roams barefooted with his friends.
From morning to noon the author encounters him in a tea stall and is paid Rs. 800 He sadly realizes that he is no longer his own master and this loss of identity weighs heavily on his tender shoulders.
I want to drive a car
The author then tells about another victim, Mukesh who wants to be a motor mechanic.
He has always worked in the glass making industry.
They are exposed to various health hazards like losing their eyesight as they work in abysmal conditions, in dark and dingy cells.
Mukesh’s father is blind as were his father and grandfather before him.
So burdened are the bangle makers of Firozabad that they have lost their ability to dream unlike Mukesh who dreams of driving a car.
Short Answer Type Questions (3 Marks, 30-40 words)
Question.1. To which country did Saheb’s parents originally belong? Why did they come to India?
Why did Saheb’s parents leave Dhaka and migrate to India?
Why had the ragpickers come to live in Seemapuri?
Answer. Saheb’s parents belonged to Dhaka in Bangladesh, where they lived amidst green fields. They and the other ragpickers left their homes many years ago and migrated to India in search of a livelihood, as their homes and fields were destroyed in storms. This forced them to come to India, where they settled in the slums of Seemapuri.
Question.2. What job did Saheb take up? Was he happy?
Answer. Saheb took up work at a tea stall, where he had to perform several odd jobs, including getting milk from the milk booth. He was not happy, as he had lost his independence. Though he earned ? 800, and got all his meals free, he was no longer his own master.
Question.3. In what sense is garbage gold to the ragpickers?
Garbage to them is gold; why does the author say so about the ragpickers?
Answer. Garbage is gold to the ragpickers of Seemapuri because it provides them items which can be sold for cash, which can buy them food and is a means of survival. Moreover, it is gold also because the ragpickers can find stray coins and currency notes in it.
Question.4. How is Mukesh different from the other bangle makers of Firozabad?
Answer. Mukesh has the courage to dream big in spite of all adversity, whereas the other bangle makers of Firozabad have resigned to their fate, and have suppressed all their hopes and desires. Mukesh refuses to follow the ‘God-given lineage’ of bangle making and wants to be a motor mechanic when he grows up.
Question.5. Whom does Anees Jung blame for the sorry plight of the bangle makers?
Answer. Anees Jung blames the middlemen, the policemen, the lawmakers, the bureaucrats and the politicians for the sorry plight of the bangle makers. These people conspire against and exploit the poor bangle makers. They pay them meagre wages, do not let them form co-operatives, and compel their children to join the same trade at an early age.
Question.6. What is Mukesh’s dream? Do you think he will be able to fulfil his dream? Why? Why not?
What was Mukesh’s dream? In your opinion, did he achieve his dream?
Is it possible for Mukesh to realise his dream? Justify your answer.
Answer. Mukesh’s dream is to become a motor-mechanic. It is no doubt difficult for Mukesh to achieve his dream, as he is torn between his desires and his family tradition, which he cannot escape. Besides, he has to face a number of obstacles in the form of sahukars, middlemen, bureaucrats, law makers, politicians etc. However, his will to work hard, and his strong determination could make him achieve his dream.
Question.7. In spite of despair and disease pervading the lives of the slum children, they are not devoid of hope. How far do you agree?
Answer. In spite of growing up amidst despair and disease, children who live in the slum have the desire to achieve something big in life, like Mukesh. This shows that they are not devoid of hope. Saheb, a ragpicker, is eager to go to a school and learn. Mukesh, who works in dark, dingy cells making bangles, dreams of becoming a motor mechanic, which is very much against his family tradition.
Question.8. Who is Mukesh? What is his dream?
Answer. Mukesh is a child labourer who Works in a glass bangle making factory that is situated in Firozabad. Though Mukesh belongs to a poor family which is engaged in bangle making, he dreams of becoming a motor mechanic when he grows up.
Question.9. Why could the bangle makers not organise themselves into a cooperative?
Answer. The bangle makers could not organise themselves into a cooperative because they were trapped in the vicious circle of sahukars, middlemen, policemen, up bureaucrats and politicians. If they tried to organise themselves, they would be beaten by up the police and put in jail.
Question.10. Mention any two hazards of working in the bangle industry.
Answer. The glass bangle industry offers a very unhealthy and hazardous environment to the people working in it. They have to work in the glass furnaces with high temperature in dingy cells without air and light. Workers, including child labourers, lose their eyesight at an early age. Slogging for long, relentless hours also has adverse effects on their bodies.
Question.11. Why does the author say that the bangle makers are caught in a vicious web?
Answer. The bangle makers in Firozabad are exploited at the hands of the Sahukars, middlemen, policemen, law makers, bureaucrats and politicians. They toil day and night, but are not paid appropriate wages and are steeped in poverty. They cannot form cooperatives for their betterment. Moreover, their children are also compelled to join the same trade at an early age and cannot dare to take up any other profession.
Question.12. Is Saheb happy working at the tea stall? How do you know?
Answer. Saheb is not happy working at the tea stall. He is paid a fixed wage of Rs 800, and also receives all his meals free. But the author notices that his face has lost its carefree look, which makes it evident that he is not happy. He has lost his independence, and is no longer his own master.
Long Answer Type Questions (6 Marks, 120-150 words)
Question.1. Give a brief account of life and activities of the people like Saheb-e-Alam settled in Seemapuri.
Answer. The author’s acquaintance with Saheb and other barefoot ragpickers introduced her to Seemapuri. It is a slum area located on the periphery of Delhi. The residents of Seemapuri consist of people who left Bangladesh in the 1971 War and are basically refugees. Saheb’s family is among them. The area does not have facilities of sewage, drainage or running water. About 10000 ragpickers live here. Their only means of livelihood is ragpicking, and they treat rags as valuable as gold. These ragpickers have lived here for more than thirty years without any identity. They do not have permits but have ration cards, with which they can get their names on the voter’s list and also buy grains at subsidised rates.
Question.2.’Lost Spring’ explains the grinding poverty and traditions that condemn thousands of people to a life of abject poverty. Do you agree? Why / Why not?
Answer. ‘Lost Spring’ is a good narration of grinding poverty and traditions to which thousands of people have succumbed. The story revolves around the pitiable condition of poor children who have been forced to live in slums and work hard in dirty conditions. The story is divided into two parts. The first part tells the writer’s impression about the life of poor ragpickers who have migrated froin Bangladesh, but now have settled in the Seemapuri area of Delhi.
The second part narrates the miserable life of the bangle makers in the town of Firozabad. The stark reality of these families is that in spite of back-breaking hard work that they put in, they cannot have two square meals a day. Besides, they are victims of exploitation by those above them and also suffer the consequences of blind belief in traditions.
Question.3. The bangle makers of Firozabad make beautiful bangles and make everyone happy but they live and die in squalor. Elaborate.
Answer. Firozabad is the hub of India’s glass-blowing industry where families have spent generations making bangles to adorn married women. The stark reality of these families is that in spite of the back breaking hard work that they put in, they cannot have two square meals a day.
They work in deplorable conditions and many lose their eyesight early. To top it all, they live in unhygienic conditions where there is a lack of basic amenities too.
The sad reality is that the workers cannot organise themselves into a cooperative. They are devoid of all enthusiasm and do not dare to dream of anything better. The fear of the police and lack of leadership among themselves have confined them to a vicious circle of poverty, indifference and greed. Thus, while they bring happiness to everyone’s life, their own life is steeped in poverty and squalor.
1. What is Saheb looking for in the garbage dumps? Where is he and where has he come from?
A. Saheb is looking for any precious thing which he cannot afford to buy. Things like a rupee, silver coin or a pair of shoes. He has come to the garbage dump in the writer’s neighbourhood. He lives in Seemapuri in Delhi and has come from Dhaka.
2. What explanations does the author offer for the children not wearing footwear?
A. The author says that they do not wear footwear because it is a tradition in their families to remain barefoot.
3. Is Saheb happy working at the tea-stall? Explain.
A. Saheb is happy that he has got work at the tea stall. He will get eight hundred rupees every month and his meals too.
4. What makes the city of Firozabad famous?
A. Firozabad is famous for glass blowing industry.
5. Mention the hazards of working in the glass bangles industry.
A. People who work in the glass bangle industry lose their eyesight.
6. How is Mukesh’s attitude to his situation different from that of his family?
A. Mukesh dares to dream and has a way out of his situation. He aspires to become a motor mechanic. On the other hand, his family does not dare to dream. They are too tired and scared to do something to come out of their grim situation.
7. What could be some of the reasons for the migration of people from villages to cities?
A. People migrate from villages to cities in search of a better life. They want to earn money so that they can lead a good life and rear their children in a better way. As cities have more opportunities for work, this makes them migrate from the villages to these big cities.
8. Would you agree that promises made to poor children are rarely kept? Why do you think this happens in the incidents narrated in the text?
A. Yes, I agree that the promises made to poor children are rarely fulfilled. In the story the writer jokingly offers the rag picker boy to join a school that she would open. In fact, she does not intend to open a school. She speaks mindlessly but the boy takes it to be true and later asks her if the school has opened. There are many such hollow promises in the boy’s life because the person who makes the promise never intends to fulfil it.
9. What forces conspire to keep the workers in the bangle industry of Firozabad in poverty?
A. The writer tells us that the bangle – makers of Firozabad are poverty – stricken. They are burdened by the fact of the particular caste in which they are born – bangle – makers. They have to continue the traditional profession. Further, the society has formed a harsh circle around them. The money – lenders, middlemen, policemen, law – keepers, officers and politicians altogether form a barrier around them and tie them in the grip of poverty. They cannot escape from it.
10. How, in your opinion, can Mukesh realise his dream?
A. Mukesh dared to dream and wanted to become a motor mechanic. He wanted to drive cars too. He took the initial step by aspiring to do something different from the family business. I think that Mukesh can realize his dream with determination and hard work.
11. Mention the hazards of working in the glass bangles industry.
A. The poor bangle makers in Firozabad work in dangerous conditions. The furnaces have very high temperatures and no ventilation. Hence, they are prone to ailments like lung cancer. While polishing the bangles, the dust harms their eyes and many lose their vision. They remain in dark for long hours and so are unable to see during the daytime.
12. Why should child labour be eliminated and how?
A. Forcing a child to work is a crime. This is so in order to prevent exploitation of children. If forced to work, Children cannot enjoy their childhood. They cannot get proper education. Also, when they are forced into hazardous works, they get ailments at a young age. This destroys their future. Their parents overlook all these facts as they need money. So, the government has to become proactive and take measures to check child labour and enforce the law strictly.