Cup of tea? (Photo credit: trekkyandy)
I see him everyday. He sits there brewing his tea all day, while customers flit in and out of his little store. Its a walk from my home. Right next to the railway station where crowds mill in and out of their own occupational frenzy. This little man, keeps serving hot, spicy ginger tea. Day in and Day out. His smile is infectious. He gives me a little wave when he sees me walk past his shanty. That is invite enough for a cup of tea.
'Kaam se jaldi aa gaye?' he questions handing me my first cup
I just nod. For someone employed in an occupation of words, speaking can become a task after a day at work. When days and hours lead to nothing, and life, somehow, feels empty. All I am looking forward to is wordless silence.
I just hold my cutting in my hand, and the burning embers of another stick in another and stare wordlessly into space. Sometimes i wonder if he wonders about me. If he thinks i am weird and talks about me to other customers. I have known barbers share information about dandruff. Maybe, he does. But he wouldn't show.
I watch as he pours out cup after cup from that tarnished steel kettle of his. Held by its handle, it has the mark of a thousand burns on the burner. He smiles at me as i hand over the cup.
There are others that walk in to sit on the tired benches. Flip through the newspaper, or listen to some gossip. He smiles and joins in conversations effortlessly. Everyone talking about their problems. Things they have, things they do not. And witnessing all this, is a lowly tea maker. He does not complain. He does not whine. Just makes tea and goes on.
He returns my change and says 'Meri bacchi kal class me first aayi'. I nod and say 'Badhiya hai. Congratulation bolna use.' He nods embarassingly. 'Bahut acchi padhti hai. Kucch banegi'. He says.
There. Steaming with the Assamese green, boiled with the milk is hope. Dreams steamed in a cup of hope with the fumes of the future rising forever. And I can see his reason for standing in front of the burning fire. I can see the comfort for the callouses in his fingers and the burns he has suffered through.
And i see what he has that i don't. Hope. That never ending fountain of strength.