Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2011

Little Hands, Little hearts

by Ashwini Sridhar

Her little hands blistered
Her little fingers bleeding
She works on her knees
Big eyes, pleading
Her little feet aching
Her back broken
A slap on her cheek
For an ill-word spoken
She works in the master’s house
For a meagre sum
Only at midnight
She heads towards the slums
As she goes home
Her little heart bursting
Money tight in her fist
Who knows who is lurking?
She nurses her wounds
But five minutes to rest
She starts again
Still oppressed
Cooking, cleaning, washing, scrubbing
Work so much, it struck her dumb
Better than her brother, a factory worker
Who had lost his thumb
Her mother, a maid
Her father dead
Her brother wounded
So much left unsaid
Finally she ate
Food all but rotten
Her laughter all gone
Her smiles forgotten
She slept for four hours
And started work again
Desperately trying
To forget the pain
She falls deeper
Into a black void
Only seven,
Already employed

Added: 30.04.2011

Judges' comments on this poem


a deceptively simple approach, which belies a deeper poignant and painful reality of child labour and oppression