HumpDay Quickie #123

Posted: January 25, 2017 in Hump-Day Quickies
Tags: , , , , ,

Chhotu: little one

by Firdaus Parves

I balanced a cloth bag full of ‘kulhars’ (handleless terracotta cups) on one shoulder, and the large kettle of tea in my other hand. It was hot, not just the kettle, but the weather. Not even dawn yet, and the breeze was warm against my sweating face. I could hear the morning call for prayer from the nearby mosque. The train was running late, it should have been here by now.
The platform was deserted except for a few porters standing and smoking and the stationmaster reading charts beside the retiring room. It was a small station, few trains stopped here.
I was worried the tea might get cold. My mother had brewed it to perfection. She had put a generous amount of ginger while boiling it. It was sweet and strong, the ginger flavour had woken my sleepy mind and I was in high spirits.
The train finally arrived, rushing past me in a blur then slowing down to a clanging halt. I ignored the air-conditioned bogeys, those passengers were used to the weak tea in styrofoam cups from the pantry car. I was headed for the general class. That’s where the real people were, they would enjoy a cup of strong ginger tea.
The train stopped for exactly seven minutes, the time I had to sell the tea. I walked alongside the train tapping on windows, crying out, “Chai…chai!”
“Hey Chhotu, two cups.”
“Chhotu here.”
“Chhotu!”
Almost ten, I was short for my age, so I was used to this name, it meant ‘little one’.
I catered to everyone’s call. Hurriedly pouring tea, and pocketing the money. A few men had climbed out of the train. One gestured to me, I poured out a cup for him. He searched for money in his pocket. I was losing precious time. I told him I would be back in a minute. When I got back, the train was already moving and the man had disappeared. Oh well, I thought, it was just one cup. Then I saw on the bench, where he had been standing, an empty kulhar with a ten rupee note under it.
The sun was rising.

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