Fireflies in the Abyss

Chandrasekhar Reddy


Development support

Went to Good Pitch


SOORAJ works in a ‘rat-hole’. The ‘rat-hole’ mines in the Jaintia Hills (NorthEast India) are narrow strips of coal requiring children to descend steep, sheer chutes and burrow into narrow horizontal tunnels to scratch coal out of hard rock, armed with nothing more than a pickaxe and a head torch. In these hostile pits, everyday is a game of death.

Long Synopsis

Unlike thousands of poor children, who are often lured to the boomtown of Lad Rymbhai by the prospects of quick money, Sooraj was born into this life. His father and mother, were immigrant workers from Nepal who never returned. With his mother no more, Sooraj lives with his father and sister. He sleeps with his father in a makeshift shack and eats at his married sister’s shack. While Sooraj cherishes hope of going to school one day and escape a life in the coalmines, he realizes that it is perhaps a distant dream. He understands that he will get no support from his alcoholic father, and possibly none from his sister either, having her own son to bring up. And so, with a pragmatic acceptance he goes into the mines everyday in order to earn his own money and become independent.

However, this precarious existence is broken when his sister’s family decides to return to Nepal - a decision prompted by the sister’s 3 year-old falling ill. Sooraj decides he doesn’t want to go – he feels Nepal is not home to him, and refuses to be dependent on his sister and her whims. But when he learns that Shaila (his best friend who works with him) will also be returning to Nepal to join school, it shatters the little he hangs onto in his life. Suddenly, one morning Sooraj disappears and no one knows where he’s gone. Efforts to find him are to no avail. The family leaves. Some time later, it’s discovered that Sooraj is living at a former mining camp and has enrolled himself in a local school with financial help from some older friends.