Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Teatime Tales..........the Second Tale

 Try telling your wife that the best cup of tea you ever had in your life was prepared not by her but by somebody else. Most likely, thereafter, you would end up brewing your own daily tea. But there are moments in everyone's life when one has a cup of tea, outside home, whose taste lingers on forever. I'm the fortunate one to have had such tea, not once but on three occasions and at three different places, separated by hundreds of miles. Their taste is still so fresh in my mind, in my   heart. And I wish to share this with you.

Second Tea

I had barely spent a month in my job when one day I got the orders from my boss to lead a survey team to Barmer, a desert district in Rajasthan. My task was to assess the requirement of launching a food programme there to tackle the child malnutrition. So, I boarded the train and landed up at the Barmer railway station on a wintry morning. 
        It was my first glimpse of the desert and there I was standing alone on that desolate dusty platform. The barren, dry landscape caught my attention and for a few moments I kept looking at the distant sand dunes and nearby houses made of mud and sandstones in bewilderment, and awe. I would have continued gazing at that scene had it not been for a man who broke my trance and told me that the vehicle was waiting outside. He had come to escort me to the rest house, about 80 km away, close to the Gadra Road, a small hamlet on the Indo-Pak border. 
        So, my second leg of journey began in the rickety jeep, which made funny noises. I'm sure earlier visitors to that city would vouch for having undertaken similar romantic trips on the bumpy border roads. Romance wasn't on my mind then. I was eager to reach my destination soon as my energies had been sapped by a rather long train journey. 
          Late in the afternoon I, along with my co-worker, reached the Gadra Road and alighted from the jeep. The rest house keeper, a middle-aged Rajasthani man, welcomed me warmly. I instantly knew I could rely on him. After tea he explained to me in detail about the grim situation in the surrounding villages where a large number of children died in their infancy due to lack of proper food. It did dampen my spirits a bit, because I had expected a better scenario. There was little I could do except to reconcile.
            We began our next day with early breakfast. As we moved round the villages, crisscrossing the dunes we found children playing in the sand. So we spent a few days walking in the sand and visiting villages. It wasn't a pleasant experience even during the winter as the day temperatures often became quite unbearable, though the nights were invariably pleasant. The tasty meals prepared by the rest house keeper rejuvenated our tired bodies at the end of the day and collection of novels was enough to kill our boredom during breaks. And we began our next day with early breakfast. We moved round the villages, crisscrossing the dunes. 
          After three days we at about three in the evening we sighted a man planting a sapling beside the road. It made us curious and so we went down to have a chat with him. He was a school teacher who had taken upon himself to plant as many trees as possible, on either side of the road, so that travellers could benefit from them.
            A humble man was on a noble mission. 
           We stood by and watched him complete his job. When he was finished he invited us for a cup of tea in his village, about a km away from there. Tired, we immediately accepted his request and moved with him. 
            Outside the village, he halted at a mud house and made me sit on a charpoy and then ran to his house, about a furlong away in the village. In the meanwhile we turned to our favourite topic, the senior-bashing. Our conversation was interrupted by the co-worker, who informed me that the jeep, which had broken down had been repaired and we should move now, lest it got dark. Delighted that our miseries were over, we completely forgot that someone had gone to fetch us tea and we started to move back. 
         After about ten minutes I heard a familiar sound shouting, ‘Sahibji chai, sahibji chai.’ We turned back and saw the teacher running frantically towards us with a kettle in one hand and mugs in another. I never felt as ashamed of myself as I felt that day. I apologized and returned to the hut.
          Arranging the mugs on the floor, the man spoke, with a smile of satisfaction, “Sahibji, I thought you both would go away without having tea.”
            “How could we?” I replied instantly wiping my eyes.
           The man poured us tea. It was so refreshing that it rejuvenated my body and mind. It touched my heart and soul. Its thought still does.
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