Children At Work

Chapter Summary

Children at Work’ by Geeta Wolf transcends the reader to the crowded city of Chennai, through the eleven-year-old kid, Velu’s eyes. His father was a drunkard and used to beat him up, and steal money from him and his sisters. Running away from what he thought could be the worst scenario to live; he ended up in the cold-hearted, materialistic city of Chennai following in the footsteps of European capitalism. Searching for his paradise Velu once again found himself in hell.

Starving for the lack of money and food, Velu was on the verge of collapse, when he got accompanied by a girl named Jaya, who looked the same age as him. Jaya, a free-spirited girl who had accepted her fate, worked as a rag-picker. She showed Velu the nooks and corners of the city and showed him how to find food and how to survive as a whole. The story ends with Velu realizing and accepting his situation, as he decides on working as a rag picker with Jaya until he found something better to do.

Velu stood on the platform but he felt as if he was still on a moving train

Velu needed some time to get off the train, Kanyakumari Express when it finally stopped at Chennai Central. Velu’s legs felt wobbly, and it felt like he was still on a moving train when he got on the platform. He got screamed at by a porter carrying a loaded trolley. Velu seemed completely out of place and the reason for him being scared was natural as he had never seen so many people in one place.

Reason why Velu run away from home

Young Velu had fled his village two days ago and since then he had nothing to eat except for some peanuts and a piece of jiggery. The reason for Velu's fleeing from his home was his drunkard father. His father used to beat him up badly and take away all his well-earned money. He then always ended up using all their money on drinks.

Velu following the ‘strange’ girl

Velu hadn’t eaten anything for the last two days and he was literally starving, when a girl of the same age as him, approached him. The girl was a rag picker, and she instantly recognized that Velu was a runaway. She tried to act friendly with him, but Velu was a bit reluctant as she was a stranger. She realized that Velu was hungry and offered him assistance in finding food. Velu was unsure of accepting the proposal but his hungry stomach made the decision for him and he followed her anyways.

Can Velu read Tamil and English?

Venturing around the city with the rag picker girl Velu was amused by the huge signboards. The boards were full of different kinds of pictures and advertisements, some of them were of banians, car tyres, pens and a woman holding a box. All the advertisements were written in English so Velu was unable to read them, confirming that he couldn’t read English. On the other hand, when they were walking on a wide bridge the girl pointed out a particularly huge building and warned Velu to be careful or he’ll be counting bars there. Velu was confused so he read the Tamil sign saying Central Jail. Thus it proves the fact that Velu could read Tamil.

The ‘girl’ leading Velu and both Eating

After walking for almost an hour, they came outside of a building named Sri Rajarajeshwari Prasanna Kalyana Mandapam, which as the sign read seemed to be a wedding house. They went over to a garbage bin overflowing with rubbish. There were two goats standing there, and the whole place was unhygienic. Velu was shocked that they had to eat leftovers, but the girl reaffirmed that they were there only for the untouched food as she handed him over a squashed banana and a vada. Seeing Velu’s distasteful’ eyes the girl pulled him back to reality and made him understand his situation clearly, as he clearly had no money to buy any fresh food. Thus Velu had to forcefully eat the banana and vada. He was nowhere near full but was definitely feeling better than before.

Jaya and her Children’s Condition

Velu descending from a village, was really confused at how the people of the city earned a living, as there were no farms, no cattle. The girl who disclosed her name to be Jaya cleared out things for Velu. She told him that there were no farmers in the city and that she and some other children like her earned a living by rag-picking. She showed him her sack; full of the things she collected. Velu was surprised that she had to collect rubbish for a living, but Jaya broke his disillusionment by saying that they were not rubbish but reusable things like paper, plastic, glass. Jaya and other rag pickers sold their collections to Jam Bazaar Jaggu who in turn sold it to factories.

Is Velu happy or unhappy to find work?

The moment Velu stepped foot in the city, he felt confused and tried to cope with the completely different kind of lifestyle that he had in his village. He was starving until he met Jaya, a ragpicker who helped him find food. Jaya was also trying to help him by letting him work with her as a rag picker. Velu was mortified realising that he ran away from his house only to dig through garbage bins. He realized that to survive he had to do whatever Jaya told him to. Thus he decided that he would work as a rag picker for now until he could find a better job.


Q1. At what age did Velu leave home and why?

Ans. Velu seemed to be eleven years old when he ran away from his home. The apparent reason for this was his abusive and drunkard father, who used to beat him up and steal all his money.

Q2. Who yelled at Velu in the station and what did he say?

Ans. A porter carrying a loaded trolley yelled at Velu as he was guarding his way. He yelled at Velu saying Oy, out of the way! and Velu jumped aside instantly.

Q3. To whom did Jaya sell her collections?

Ans. Jaya collected paper, plastic, glass all day long as that was her job as a rag-picker. She then sold it to Jam Bazaar Jaggu who in turn sold it to factories.