Who deserves a childhood?

Okay, a simpler question: What is childhood? A time to learn, to play, to experience, to dream, a time for joy and innocence. Chores and pocket money. School. Adventure.

Surely all children deserve that.

But Toffee shows the economic divide of childhood: Tania (Sammaera Jaiswal) is well-off and visiting her grandmother for the summer. She is friends with Ritu (Syna Anand), who lives in a slum and must help support her families.

The girls themselves see no differences in their friendship, laughing and dancing together. They are too young to know about the distance between them. But for Ritu, wrapping candies (the toffees) is required to help her family; she must wrap a certain number to earn money for the family, to earn money for sweets, and to earn money to save. Tania helps Ritu, but for Tania, wrapping candy is just a pastime, something to pick up and put down, a curiosity.

Both have big dreams: Tania to be a doctor, Ritu to open a dance studio. Tania has the support of her family, Ritu has been secretly saving money from the toffees she wraps. Ritu explains her sister has gotten married, and how unhappy she (the sister) is, and that won’t happen to her.

Tania is unable to return until two summers later. She runs through the streets, looking for her friend. She makes it to the door of Ritu’s house. And there Ritu sits, dressed as a bride, singing to a baby. Ritu’s childhood is over.

Why does Tania deserve to achieve her dreams and Ritu does not? The girls saw themselves as equals. Now, how can society?

Posted by Natasha

Natasha received her MA in Literature and Culture in 2008 from Oregon State University. Currently she lives in Oregon with her husband and cats.

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