I was sitting in the back-seat of the car, looking outside at the countless faces, trying to read the incoherent…and suddenly there was a traffic congestion so the car stopped.
We stopped next to a tea vendor, a ‘chai-wala’ as we would say. And I kept on staring at him as all he did was to pour the tea from one huge ladle to a container, then from the container to the ladle and then back again from the ladle to the container. He kept on doing this for about five minutes with the utmost sincerity. Then he poured the tea in small conical glasses and handed them over to the customers there, and my, was that man proud of himself. He had one of the most uncommon smiles. He had the smile of a satisfied person. In that one moment he was possibly the happiest man in the world.
Did I catch him on a happy day?
Did the crowd of people standing there appreciating his tea making art make him happy?
Did his children give him the same smile before he left for work that morning?
Does he make the best tea in the world to be so happy?
Or is he thinking about the delicious food his wife made him last night?
I don’t know. And no one else does but him. It can be any of those reasons or any of the infinite number of possibilities. But, does that matter? He was preparing the tea which he did everyday and he was happy. And that is what matters.
Until three months back I was working in a company where I served as a technical adviser for an international company. And one of those callers, I don’t quite remember the gentleman’s name, had a problem with the e-mail id so while I was working on the issue. He asked me where I was speaking from and I told him, Delhi. He said he had been here, in India a long time ago. Sometime in the late 1970s. I was very tired that day (as I always was there) so I met his excitement with a dull “Great!”, but he kept on describing how great his experience was in India.
And among all the tourist spots he might have visited, the incredible people he might have met, the thrilling experiences he might have had he told me one…he told me how fascinated he was when he watched a tea vendor pour the tea from the ladle to the container, the container to the ladle and so on. He was amused by the promptness of the tea vendor, how he poured so quick and with such accuracy.
“The tea was so sweet and so good, it was the best tea of my life.”, he said
I did not know how to respond to this as I have never lived like that. I have never had an honest life. I have been too busy to find out where the next Starbucks was going to open. I was so busy taking pictures with those fancy plastic cups that I had never noticed the permanent finger impressions on those small conical glasses. I have been too busy trying to live my fantasy to ever realise my reality. I have been too busy being fake to be real.
I saw the tea vendor and I remembered that caller. The happiness on this tea vendor’s face somehow reflected the magnitude of that voice on the call.
It is strange how there’s an invisible thread of thoughts between people who have never met and will never meet.
The traffic congestion cleared and we left.