For two years, Amadou and his younger brother Seydou have been working their socks off to collect cacao pods for their bosses. The number of cacao pods serve as the only servility amidst their servitude. The higher it is, the safer they are and the closer they are to paying off their debt and returning home to Moke and Auntie. But the problem is Amadou doesn’t know how much he and Seydou owe, and the bosses won’t tell him.
Tara Sullivan’s ‘Bitter Side of Sweet’ is a tour de force of magnanimous proportions. It tells the riveting story of a little boy Amadou who has been trapped into slavery in modern day Ivory Coast and his endless pursuits to be free again. The story is about those pursuits, but the reader’s heartbreak lies in lieu with the torture that innocence can’t handle.
While on the matter of atrocities being handled by innocent minds, let’s shift focus to our own campus.
Of the many things that are unique to IIT Kharagpur, Illumination or Illu as it is fondly called is certainly one of the most prominent. Started way back in 1981 by a few enthusiastic students from Azad getting bored on Diwali, it has now become the new parameter to judge the students’ devotion to their Halls and the Institute. From an artistic point of view, Illu is a delight for the eyes. Huge patterns of diyas hung on mesh panels are erected in every hall. Once lit up, it is a treat to watch. It is a great time for everyone on campus. But behind this exquisite picture is the toil and hard work of first-year and second-year students who are coaxed into accepting everything in the name of hall culture and preserving the traditions. Illumination, for all its ills, is a source of pride for the student community. In 2008, when the 11 pm curfew was imposed, the Halls boycotted Illu. In 2014, Illu and Rangoli ceased to be a competition in an effort to root out the culture of oppression. This year Illu has been reinstated as a competition and hence reverting to the Stone Age where hundreds of students are coerced to participate mindlessly and simultaneously driven by sentiments to keep the traditions alive.
One might say, why to make a fuss about it. This event is covered by national media and others and everyone can spare two hours to show their devotion to their respective halls and the institute. Aye, but since when did we follow official working hours and guidelines. One might wonder how do people reach such staggering heights to put up and light diyas with everyday stuff. Students stand atop a stack of shaky beds, which have been taken from their rooms for this purpose. That too without any safety equipment or any safety measures.
” This is the least we can do for our hall”, said an enthusiastic student who is about to become a Secretary in the hall council.”Traditions are important and we will make sure grandeur of our illu does not go down” added another prospective Secretary candidate. Other boarders reportedly disagree with their batchmates. ” It was the first time I stood on a chair placed on such a height over such an unreliable structure. At the end, my hands felt like they have been poked with pins”, a student said on the condition of anonymity. “Two -three hours are okay but I can’t do a night out every other night”,he further added.
We do not know how long will this thing go,or whether it will be a part of General Championship or not in the future. How long will we overlook the plight of Amadou and Seydou for delicious chocolate? How long will they have to labor in unsafe conditions, after all this why they came here. How long must they collect cacao pods, we are yet to know.
For how long, must we embrace darkness for a jiffy of light?