Fireflies in the Abyss

10 year old Sooraj, works in a ‘rat-hole’. The ‘rat-hole’ mines in the Jaintia Hills (North-east India) are narrow strips of coal deposits requiring children to descend down steep, sheer chutes and burrow into narrow horizontal tunnels to scratch coal out of hard rock

Even with the odds stacked against him, a 10 year-old boy fights his way out of a life in the ‘rathole’ coalmines, to educate himself. Sooraj is a 10 year old who has been born into the life of the coalmines but doesn’t imagine his future there. With his mother no more, he now lives with his father and sister. He sleeps with his father in a makeshift shack and eats at his married sister’s shack. He cherishes a hope of educating himself and breaking away to a better life someday. However, his alcoholic father is someone he can’t rely on for support, nor his elder sister, who has a child of her own to bring up. And hence he works in the mines to earn and take charge of his own life. This precarious world is shattered when his family (migrant from Nepal) decides to leave the mines and go back home to Nepal. He decides, however, not to go along – considering that he has never known Nepal as home. He refuses to be dependent on his family. However, this crisis is deepened when his best buddy – Shalia (12 yrs), who also works in the mines, is sent off to Nepal to attend school. This precipitates a deep crisis for Sooraj. While the family readies to leave they try to convince him to leave too. But one morning Sooraj has disappeared and no one knows where he is gone. The family leaves for Nepal with a vague knowledge that he may be with some friends. It is later discovered that Sooraj has returned to some friends (boys not much older than himself) at a former mining camp, and with their help has enrolled himself into a local school. With Sooraj’s story as the primary plot, life in the mining camp and lives of several miners whose lives intertwine, are explored. These stories are no less compelling and provide the context and backdrop to Sooraj’s story. They also provide the dramatic thrust and contrast to his narrative. The film will enter and explore the precarious lives in the mines. Most of the events characterize the choices made under hard circumstances that they experience, see around them and have to continually resolve – both internally and externally. Contrasting the various responses will have the potential to elicit drama, irony and humour, while gradually building up a composite picture of lives under unusual – perhaps extraordinary - circumstances

Production team