Suriya,  9 years old lived with his mom Gauri in the slum area near the Coovum river in Chennai city. Gauri was working as maid in the few houses near the slum and her income was very less that she found it very hard to run the family. Her husband Durai had died in an accident when Suriya was 1 year old. All the savings had been taken away by Suriya’s paternal grandparents and his uncle.

So Suriya didn’t have a normal childhood but he enjoyed what he had. Suriya would go with his friends to pick rags around the city and contributed to the family income. His income depended on the things he would get. His maximum income a day would not cross 10 rupees.


This day was not a usual day for Suriya. His mom was ill and so she couldn’t go to work. Suriya’s friends went to some camp organised by a NGO and so he was all alone. “Amma,  I shall be with you. Noone is joining me to pick rags today.  I can’t go alone.”  said Suriya in a pleading tone to Gauri. “Dont worry da. Amma will be fine. Please go and at least earn 10 rupees so that tonight you can eat in the government canteen.”  Suriya was fond of Chapati and the side dish kuruma that was available in the government canteen. So he left home wishing that he gets lots of rags because he didn’t have any competition today. So whatever he picks is his. He decided to go to a posh locality close by, which his friends usually hesitated to go because of the illegal activities that happened in a dilapidated factory that was on the way.

When Suriya was about to cross the factory,  he saw Raj coming towards him in his Royal Enfield bike. Raj had been the budding yet influential politician in the area where Suriya lived. Suriya hated Raj because he has heard Gauri always telling him that Raj had taken away their insurance money which they got after his dad’s death. Suriya just walked slowly with his head down when he heard the vehicle stop by him. “Hey Suriya what are you doing here?” Raj asked in a demanding tone. “I am just going to pick rags and bottles.” Suriya replied bluntly. “Ok, ok. You should not come to these places. Take this and go home. I shall come and collect it in the evening. And don’t tell about this to anyone. Gotcha?” said Raj in an ordering tone. “I have to pick rags to make money. Mom is not well and I have to buy food from what I earn today. So please allow me to go.” asked Suriya pleading. “Take this and leave with that bag immediately. And listen don’t tell about this to anyone. Keep it safely in your sack.” said Raj giving Suriya a 500 rupees note. Suriya happily got the money and the bag Raj gave him.  Tucking it inside the sack he carried,  Suriya walked back to his slum.

Gauri was washing vessels when Suriya reached home. He happily gave her the 500 rupees note that Raj gave him and kept the sack inside. Seeing 500 rupees from Suriya,  Gauri was dumbstruck because it was not even one hour since he left home and managing to make 10 rupees per day was a bg deal for him. Furiously Gauri went to him and asked – “Hey, how you got this money?”. “Amma that Raj uncle is a very good fellow. He gave me this money to safeguard his bag. I have kept it in the sack.  Don’t tell about this to anyone. He will come and collect in the evening. ” innocently saying this Suriya ran to play with his friends. Gauri suspiciously went and opened the sack. She saw a yellow bag inside and she was worried about what would be inside. Slowly she took it out and opened the bag. Her eyes opened vividly and she started sweating heavily. Fastly she closed the bag and hid it in between their clothes on the shelf. Hearing the call of Suriya,  she wiped her face and came out of the house. “Ammaaaaa ammmmaaa….”  came Suriya running towards her with heavy breath. “Amma amma Raj uncle,  Raj uncle….” his voice choked. “Relax Suriya. What happened?” said Gauri patting him. Suriya’s eyes seem to be displaying horror. Gauri gave him a hug and asked again. “Amma, Raj uncle has been murdered. He is lying in a pool of blood near the main road”. That was a great news for Gauri, but she didn’t show it off. “Suriya,  did you see him dead?” “Yes amma. I saw it.” said Suriya still showing horror in his eyes. “Ok Suriya. Don’t worry about it. Try to forget it and play with your friends.” said Gauri convincing him. But he didn’t seem to get convinced. “Amma what about the package he gave us? Shouldn’t we give it to his home.” she didnt expect this from Suriya. Feeling proud about her son, she consoled him saying “It is just waste papers Suriya. He helped you today to earn money.  Now go and play.  Don’t go to the main road.” said Gauri.  As Suriya was about to leave, she stopped him and asked suspiciously “Suriya was there anyone with Raj when he gave you the bag?”.  Suriya nodded his head in the gesture of telling No. A sense of relief spread Gauri’s face and happily she went inside to thank god for the insurance amount of her husband’s death that has come in this form from Raj.


This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

3 thoughts on “A day in the life of a rag-picker – “Suriya”

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