The Tea Seller

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I prefer to have my desk by the window side. This helps me to think. May be I am thinking for a story, may be for my research work, or may be just thinking about something abstract. I love to sit back and just think about something randomly. Sitting by the window helps me. I recently got an opportunity to work as an intern at Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, to work on development of Iterative Dichotomizer Algorithm. Jhunuk da, the lab assistant here is an elderly person. He has helped me a lot to get my desk settled. I was being offered the cabin along with other interns, but I preferred to sit in a silent corner of the computer lab. And Jhunuk da helped me get my request approved from officials. There are a lot of rules here. I forget many, but Jhunuk da is always here to remind me about them and do my things accordingly.

The window by my desk has a frame which reminds of British days in India, and these are quite common in Kolkata. Through the closed window too, sun rays penetrate and fall at my desk in the morning. The window is east facing. When I am struck at my code, I peep through the window, and it amazes me with the vintage look of the city in hustle. I and Jhunuk da, we love to sit together by the window and enjoy our evening tea. The chai wallah who comes with tea for us has his shop outside the institute, and he has very good friendship with Jhunuk da. Jhunuk da has always helped him in his needs; he discussed these with me during our chai breaks. Jhunuk da is very sensitive guy. He actually feels for him, and tries his best to do all which he can.

‘He has to marry his girl child. She is nineteen now.’

‘I see. So he needs to find a groom for her?’ I inquired.

‘He has already found one. He is just arranging enough money for the marriage.’ Jhunuk da replied.

‘Dowry?’

‘No No. The family of groom has not asked for dowry. He is worried for the marriage costs. You see everything is so costly now. He hardly earns anything…’ The anxiety was easily visible on his face.

These conversations homed inside my head, and echoed from time to time. It was two or three days later that in one of my tea breaks with Jhunuk da, I suggested something.

‘Dada, why not collect some funds for the marriage?’

‘Whose marriage, chai wallah’s daughter’s?

 ‘Yes’ I said.

‘Umm. Yes we can… But who will agree to pay?’ he asked me.

‘See. I will go to other interns and ask them to pay as per their wish, for the marriage. I am sure they will contribute something.’

‘We can try…’ Jhunuk da replied.
...

The chai wallah came to my desk few weeks later. He handed me the wedding invitation. He was very happy. He shaked hands with me. His happiness was beyond any explanation. It made me think that I will be a father too. I will have to marry my daughter, may be then I would be feeling the same as he is feeling today. From my desk he moved to Jhunuk Da’s desk. He did not know that we had contributed funds for the wedding of his daughter. Jhunuk da did not want him to know this. He trusted Jhunuk da, and would take his help only. He had a lot of self-respect. What he knew was that Jhunuk da gave sufficient funds for the marriage.


I unfolded the wedding card, and felt contented to read the scheduled wedding date. I felt satisfied of having done something good. I never came to know what was the name of that chai wallah, until I read his name on the card. His name was ‘Dhani Chandra Ghosh’.  



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The Lunch Box

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The class was as usual decked up with concepts of physics all around. The teacher kept drawing pulleys, and did all the hardship to pull it applying necessary forces, but I was lost somewhere else. Not that I was not interested in physics, and not that I was very much interested in our lady physics teacher like my friends; unlikely I was struck in those words which Priya had for me the day before. 

I was coming out from canteen that day, triumphant about the fact that I managed to buy two samosas. I always failed at it, as I used to give up the fight in the queue-less stampede at canteen each day. School authorities ceased their authoritarian and disciplinary actions at canteen I doubt. As I stepped out from the stampede, trying to wipe of the sauce that spilled a bit on my white uniform shirt, I found Priya standing in front of me. Her innocent eyes looked bleak. I stood there still, and watched her. I never had courage to speak to girls.
I chose to move out, and not to speak to her, as usual this time again. But as I moved past her, she called my name. With a jolt within, my mind capitulated, ‘she knows my name’.

‘Aarush, I had to get samosas, but you see the crowd there at the counter.’

‘Hmmm? Umm… Oh… I see’, this was all that I replied.

‘Do you know anyone there in the crowd at the counter? If you know, then please hand over this money to him.’

‘Actually… I don’t know anyone there. They are not from our class’, I said. ‘By the way, how many… Umm… how many samosas do you want?’ I added some more with my voice almost afraid to come out.

‘One’, she chirped.

‘You see, I have already had my lunch. I wanted one samosa too, but the counter guy didn’t have change so he gave me two.’
‘Would you like to have… I mean if you like, the one from mine?’, and as I said it seemed my heart would come out from my chest.

‘You are not hungry?’ she asked.

‘No. I had my lunch from the tiffin my mom prepared for me.’

She looked at me with her face showing her hesitation. She moved in order to pick one, but retraced her steps soon. She looked at me again. This time she smiled wide, and then she broke into laughter. It was a feeling so heavenly to watch her laugh; she was so beautiful.
She moved forward and picked one samosa, ‘Thanks’, she said.

While we snacked, she kept talking. She said that her mother was sick. And so she didn’t let her cook for the school tiffin. She would take the meal from school canteen, she had assured to her mother.

‘It would be two-three days more like this; I would have to come to canteen.’
‘Hmm…’, this was all that I could reply along with my smile.

And the other day, when I was in class waiting for the period to end, with all my attention towards Priya and the talk that we had, there was something cooking inside my head too. Just before five minutes from tiffin break, I asked my teacher for an excuse to let me go to washroom, with my constipated face at her disposal. My facial expression inferred to her that she had no choice left but to allow me.
I came out of classroom, and rushed to the canteen.

Priya came ten minutes later. She waited at the canteen gate; probably she was looking for someone in the crowd who might help her buying the meal. I went near, and from her back I called her name. She turned, and saw me standing, with both my hands holding a plate with two samosas. I bought one for her, and one for myself.

‘Hey. Did you leave the class with an excuse for samosas?’

‘Yes’, I said energetically.

‘Why didn’t you buy two for each one of us?’ she inquired.

‘You have one, and I will have one too. And then we will share from my tiffin. I had asked my mom to give more food today. I explained that as your mom was sick, so…’ And then I smiled.

What all followed next till the present day is something which I will not pen down here. But, let me share something special with you all. I and Priya are getting engaged on 27th of April this year. The ceremony is going to held at my residence; GA 25, White Lake, Kolkata. You all are invited. (smiles)



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