Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tea, City and Free Birds

The long boring afternoon hours in office were making her fidgety. Tik tik tik….12:20 pm was the time by her watch. Alas, only 3 minutes had passed since the last time she had checked. Even the hands of her watch seemed exhausted by the hot, heavy May afternoon; causing them to run slower by the second.
The best way to beat hot afternoons is by having an equally hot cup of tea; and she being a teaholic needed no more provocation.

“Enough is enough !!!” she got up from her desk, brushed her dress and brushed off her inhibitions of going out alone on the blazing streets to have tea. As the afternoon air welcomed her outside, she smiled and inhaled the street smells. The day’s work was on and the bazaar was bustling. Noisy shopkeepers were loading and unloading goods. Rickshaw pullers were scaling the streets to beat each other in the race of livelihood. College students were animatedly talking in small groups. The pleasure of bunking classes was evident on a few faces. She spotted a couple holding hands under a mango tree. She took in all this and smiled. She was a part of all this yet she felt alone...

She spotted a chaiwallah under the Neem tree. With purposeful strides, she reached the stall and asked “ Bhaiya ek chai dena!”

Chai wallah was surprised to listen to a female voice but quickly recovering, he obliged, filling in a cup of steaming hot tea. She inhaled the heady aroma and took a small sip. “Ummm, badhiya chai!”
She resumed her inspection of the street in front of her. There was a bus stop beside the tea stall, near which, she saw an old woman sitting on the footpath under the shade of an old umbrella, selling pigeon feed.
People in Jaipur love pigeons and it is not uncommon to spot numerous mini Trafalgar squares, where people come and feed these peace birds. She immediately took out her phone and clicked a few pictures of the woman with pigeons. Upon hearing the clicks, the old woman turned and gave her a smile.

She smiled back and asked, “Amma, photo le sakti hu?” The old woman graciously obliged and posed for her. After getting the shot to her liking, she signaled the chai wallah for two more cups of tea and settled down on a nearby bench. After quietly sipping tea for some time, they both looked at each other and smiled. “Since when are you coming here amma?” she asked in Hindi.

“Before you were even born beta.” replied the wizened old lady. The tea warmed the old woman’s memories and out came the lore of bygone days. Her mesmerizing stories ranged from the tales of royalty to that of wars, of changing political scenes and of lives lost in bomb blasts.

In the course of conversation, she realized that the old woman who sold pigeon feed for living was a cripple and had no legs. She had lost her husband in her youth and her only son was off to Delhi for employment.
“Don’t you feel alone amma?”She asked. The old woman looked fondly at the pigeons and replied, “These birds are my family.” She was moved by the sheer zest of the old woman to live.

With a hoard of worldly advice and a promise to meet again, she said goodbye to the old woman and with a spring in her step, walked back to office.

Her spirit soared high in the hot afternoon breeze.