Ramesh often takes the geese at Bal Ashram for a walk. He really likes caring for the goslings. “Because when I was little and I was set free from slave labour, there was always someone to take care of me,” he explains.
After a few months at Bal Ashram, Ramesh returned home. He began to hang out with older boys who were into smoking and fighting. His father grew angry and sent him to Nepal. Ramesh had to work in a restaurant, cleaning and washing dishes for twelve hours a day.
“The owner used to beat me for the slightest mistake,” says Ramesh. “The nights were terrible. I used to place two benches side by side to sleep on, but sometimes I fell off. Then the owner would come flying in and beat me.”
One day, Ramesh was painting a wall when a drop of paint landed in the restaurant owner’s food.
“I can’t remember how many times he punched me before I fell. I landed on my hands and and a nail went right into my finger. There was blood and paint everywhere.”
There and then, Ramesh, who by then was nine, decided to escape. But Bal Ashram was several days’ journey away.
Ramesh told the other boy at the restaurant about the food, the games and the school there, but his friend was too afraid to join him. Finally Ramesh got desperate and lied: “Do you know what else there is at Bal Ashram? Planes! Sometimes they land there and you can have a look at them!”
The very next day, the boys ran away.
“We slipped onto a train and hid from the conductor. If anyone found us we were going to jump off while the train was in motion.”
Once in New Delhi, they finally managed to find the right bus. After travelling for 24 hours, a bumpy bus ride took them the last few miles. Ramesh knew exactly where he was – this was where he had been on a march against child slavery!
“My heart started beating faster. When we arrived at the gates of Bal Ashram, I saw one of my old teachers. I was over the moon, but my friend broke down in tears when he realised there were no planes here!”
Ramesh likes taking care of the goslings at Bal Ashram. He likes to think deep thoughts while walking.
“I never want to be rich. It’s better to be honest and poor. I don’t like rich people’s lifestyle and wastage,” says Ramesh, who used to be a child slave.
“I want to be a lawyer and fight against corruption.”