Goli soda - Purna's story

On the banks of the river Godavari, there lies a city called Rajahmundry. If you navigate through its many lanes and gullies you will eventually find Purna's home because just outside her house there is an aging machine, with large screws that seem to have the purpose of holding something in place. This machine is used to create a 'Goli Soda,' literally translated as 'marble soda'.

Purna's father Sathyanarayanan is a fruit vendor, who operates this soda machine. The soda machine is from the early 70’s and is used to force a small marble on top of a glass bottle which holds the fizz inside the bottle.

Purna, and the millions like her, have their freedoms curbed.

'Goli Soda' is unlike the soda we get today. You have to press the marble on top of the bottle and you hear a popping sound, which indicates that the marble has fallen into the bottle and the soda is ready to drink. The aging machine that puts the marble in its place and contains the goodness of the soda, can be compared to the issue of child labour.

The children's true potential is held inside a bottle, their freedoms lost, their search for an identity curtailed, their joy and childhood pressured into a glass edifice by a single marble.

Purna, and the millions like her, have their freedoms curbed.

Purna stopped going to school when she was in the 10th standard, at age 15. “Since all the children in the family are girls,” Purna says.

She went in search of a job and was rejected from many jobs, because they told her that she did not have the communication skills required to do the jobs she applied for. Eventually she found a job making candles.

Deep down she wanted to do better in life. Get a better education, because she felt that in Telugu, her mother tongue, she is a good communicator. She spoke to her parents about her education and did her best to convince them. Her parents too understood the importance of giving their children a good education but were faced by financial constraints.

“I explained to them how a good education, will lead to a good job. I came up with the solution that I could study and work at the same time,” says Purna.

Purna had to face her fears- fear that her family will not be able to support her education and her fear for the future.

This fear was forcing her into a glass bottle, her freedom further curbed by a marble that says- you are a girl.

In his book Development as Freedom, Amartya Sen argues that freedom of individuals should be the basic building blocks of development.

"Attention is thus paid particularly to the expansion of the capabilities of persons to lead the kind of lives they value and have reason to value.... Greater freedom enhances the ability of people to help themselves and also to influence the World and these matters are central to the process of development."

But Purna's story is hopeful, unlike many girls.

She was assisted by a World Vision special project that focused only on rescuing and rehabilitating child labourers. As part of the program the staff and local child protection unit members identified children who had already dropped out of school. This is how they found Purna.

Now 23, she completed her Bachelor of Commerce and is currently pursuing her MBA, with the World Vision project helping with the tuition.

“World Vision staff kept telling me- don’t worry, if you try hard you will come up in life,” she says.

Purna is on her way.