The Lost Spring
By Anees Jung
About the author
Anees Jung is an author, journalist and a columnist for major newspapers in India and abroad. She was born in Hyderabad in 1944 in an aristocratic family. Her father, Nawab Hosh Yar Jung, was a renowned scholar and poet. He was the adviser to the last Nizam of Hyderabad princely state. Her schooling and graduation were completed from her hometown. Later she went abroad for higher studies. She did her Masters in Sociology and American Studies from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, US. She started her career in literal writing with the Youth Times, a Times of India publication. Later she served as its editor from 1976 to 1979. Prior to it, she worked as journalist. Jung came into the limelight with the publication of Unveiling India in 1987. Later she published several books dealing with social issues including abused children and women’s problems. Jung is noted for her lively and vivid descriptions, though she rarely gives its solutions.
Saheb-e-Alam: A rag picker
Mukesh: Son of a bangle maker
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.
I – Sometimes I find a rupee in the garbage.
1. The writer encounters Saheb every morning scrounging for gold in the garbage.
2. Saheb-e-Alam, a refugee from Dhaka, Bangladesh is a ragpicker.
3. Wants to go to school, but can’t – very poor.
4. Lives in Seemapuri – a locality on the periphery of Delhi without any basic amenities.
5. Most of the rag pickers live here.
6. Food is more important for them than identity.
7. Rag picking is different for children and adult.
8. For adults – a mean of survival
9. For children – wrapped in wonders
10. Sahib gets a job in tea stall, earns Rs. 800/- and all his meal but still unhappy
11. Loses his freedom and carefree look.
II – I want to drive a car.
1. The writer comes across Mukesh in Firozabad.
2. His family is engaged in making bangles but Mukesh insists on being his own master.
3. He desires to become a motor mechanic.
4. They work in dingy cells without air and light and furnaces with high temperatures.
5. As a result, most of them become blind at a very young age.
6. They don’t have money to do anything except carry on the business of making bangles.
7. They can’t organize into a co-operative.
8. They are afraid of being hauled up by the Police, beaten and dragged to jail for doing something illegal.
9. There is no leader among them.
10. They talk of poverty, apathy, greed and injustice.
11. So poor that they can’t even dream – to do anything means to dare – and daring is not part of their growing.
12. The author is cheered when she senses a flash of it in Mukesh who wants to be a motor mechanic.
Important Short / Long Answer Type Questions
Q1. What does the title ‘Lost Spring’ convey?
Ans. The title ‘Lost Spring’ conveys and picturizes that childhood is like the spring. As everything blooms in this season, in the same way the childhood should bloom but through the poverty of Saheb and Mukesh, we come to know about their stolen childhood. It is being destroyed and dumped in the web of poverty, dirt and dust.
Q2. What does Anees Jung want to reveal in her story ‘Lost Spring’?
Ans. Anees Jung has portrayed two stories in ‘Lost Spring’ and both depict the grinding poverty, pitiable condition of life and the other traditions that condemn the children to a life of exploitation. For the rag-pickers of Seemapuri, garbage is gold and means of survival. The bangle-makers of Firozabad live in dingy cells and stinking lanes. Even after much toil, they do not get full meal.
Part I – Sometimes I find a rupee in the garbage.
Q1. What is Saheb looking for in the garbage dumps? Where is he and where has he come from?
Ans. Saheb is scrounging for anything in the garbage dump that he can sell and make money. This is the only means of survival. He sometimes manages to find a rupee or even ten rupees. He now lives with his family in Seemapuri, a slum on the outskirts of Delhi. His family has migrated from Bangladesh in search of a better life.
Q2. What makes the authoress embarrassed at having made a promise that was not meant?
Ans. On encountering with Saheb, the writer asks him to go to school. Immediately at the second thought, she realizes that the advice must sound very hollow. On the other hand, Saheb replies that there is no school in his neighbourhood. And he will go if the authorities make one. The writer asks half-jokingly if she starts a school, “will he go?” Saheb goes on asking her “Is your school ready?” She feels embarrassed at having made a promise that was not meant.
Q3. Does the rag picking mean the same thing for parents and children? Give reasons for your answer.
Ans. No, rag picking is not the same for parents and children. For children it is wrapped in wonders where as for parents it is the means of survival.
Q4. Why was not Saheb happy on getting a job?
Ans. Saheb was not happy on getting a job in tea stall for a salary of Rs.800/- per month as he lost his freedom. He had to carry the stall owner’s steel canister in place of his bag. He had lost his freedom and carefree look. He was now no longer his own master.
Q5. What could be some of the reasons for the migration of people from villages to cities?
Ans. Most people, who have migrated from villages to cities, have done so because of the promise of a better life. Some of them have not been able to earn any money from farming because of the unpredictable vagaries of the weather. They have had no jobs and no way of earning a livelihood. Cities provide a ray of hope as they are a means of escaping from abject poverty and offer hope of some employment. These people feel that though they may have to live in the most abysmal conditions in the city, they will get at least some food to eat.
Part II – I want to drive a car.
Q1. What was Mukesh’s dream?
Ans. Mukesh belongs to the family of bangle makers. He tells the writer to become a motor mechanic. He will learn to drive a car and does not hesitate to go to the far off garage. He has no desire to live and become the victim of poverty.
Q2. Why don’t the bangle makers of Firozabad organize themselves?
Ans. The bangle makers are trapped in the vicious circle of middlemen and police. If they organize a co-operative, they will be hauled up, beaten and dragged to jail by the police for doing something illegal. There is no leader to help them out from their misery. They are the victims of greed and injustice.
Q3. How is Mukesh’s attitude to his situation different from that of his family?
Ans. Mukesh wants to be a motor mechanic and drive a car. He wants to break away from the generations-old family tradition of bangle making. His family is not as optimistic as he is, but he is determined and exhibits a spark of courage and hope and dares to dream, even though it means walking miles to get to the garage.
Q4. Why does the author say that the bangle-makers are caught in a vicious web?
Ans. The family of bangle makers were caught in the vicious web of poverty. They are forced to practise their ancestral profession. They remain ill fed and ill clad throughout life. They have no money to switch over their profession. Their hard work is mind numbling. The police does not allow them to form co-operatives.
Q5. How, in your opinion, can Mukesh realise his dream?
Ans. Mukesh belongs to the family of bangle- makers who prepare colourful bangles like that of rainbow. But his attitude to this situation is different from others. He is a daring boy and he announces, “I will be a motor mechanic, I will leam to drive a car. Though the garage is a long way from his home yet he insists I will go to the garage and learn.”
The determination and strong will of becoming a motor mechanic and learning to drive a car, seems to be as firm as a rock in Mukesh. That is why he says he will walk to the garage which is a long way from his home. Though his dream appears to be vague, unclear and like a mirage yet he has a different ambition to fulfil. He can materialize his dream once he walks.
Q6. What forces conspire to keep the workers in the bangle industry of Firozabad in poverty?
Ans. The bangle makers firmly believe that having been born in the caste and community of bangle makers, they cannot escape their fate and must remain where they are. They believe that bangle making is the only skill they possess and that they must pass on the legacy to their children. Bangle making is not a lucrative source of income but they have no alternative and hence remain entrenched in the same. They have fallen into the vicious clutches of middlemen who had trapped their fathers and their forefathers. They are afraid to form cooperatives to safeguard themselves because they feel that they will be beaten up by the police and jailed for doing something illegal. Steeped in despair and apathy, they no longer have the will to aspire and better their lot. Some of the industrialists conspire in unison with the sahukars, the middlemen, the policemen and the politicians and then go on exploiting them. They see very little hope of escaping from their impoverished life of misery and privation.
Q7. Mention the hazards of working in the glass bangles industry. / Describe the difficulties the bangle makers of Firozabad have to face in their lives.
Ans. The glass blowing industry of Firozabad employs local families and these families have spent generations working around furnaces, welding glass and making bangles of different colours. Working around the high temperature furnaces is very injurious to our growing bodies. The dark dingy cells without light and air worsen the working conditions of the children. The dazzling and sparking of welding light and the high temperature render the situation hellish. About 20,000 children slog their day light hours and often lose the brightness of their eyes before they become adults.
The bangle-makers lead their life in utter miseries and grinding poverty. They could never prosper working in this industry. They hardly get a belly full of meal in their lifetime. Thus they are not only underfed but also prone to ailments. The dingy cells and stinking smell of garbage choke their bodies. There are flames of flickering oil lamps, the blinding polishing and the welding work put a deep impact on their bodies. Those who work in bangle industries, lose their eyesight before they become adult.
Q8. Why should child labour be eliminated and how?
Ans. The child labour employed in any form is an offence. It is banned under law. Yet it goes on unabated at the industrial towns like Firozabad, Shivakasi, Mirzapur and so on.
The child labour is hazardous in nature. It inflicts physical and mental harm to the boys. The work in the glass bangle industry often ends up them losing their eyesight before they become adults. The mind-numbling toil of bangle-making kills all their initiatives, drive and ability to dream in life. They are even deprived of the school education and proper growth.
According to the writer about 20,000 children are working in the glass bangle industry of Firozabad. Some of the industrialists conspire in unison with the sahukars, the middlemen, the policemen and the politicians and then go on stealing their childhood for some extra coins. The .only possible solution lies with the government and the society to punish the wrongdoers very strictly and keep a careful watch and vigil over them.