Three fingers partially dipped in tea, and a feeble support of the thumb enabling him to hold on to 3 tea glasses in each hand. He served us tea. A worn out shirt, followed by dirty knickers and bare feet was the output of my head-to-toe scan of this lad standing waist high. I got the answer …the name chhotu seemed justified. I though, was amazed to see how cheerfully that child was doing all what he does. He serves tea and poha, cleans up everything , collects the emptied glasses and when you offer him money he redirects you towards the owner of the thela . And in the process, he seems perfectly at ease with no regrets at all.
Sipping tea, I had a look at children playing cricket and football on the playground stationed opposite to this chai-thela. Little brats kicking the ball for a few meters and some others chasing a ball down to the boundary somehow seemed extremely ecstatic , rejoicing every moment of the Sunday that comes after 6 days of toil in their respective schools. “Schools, which chhotu might not have ever been to” This thought was about to brush me , but before that I thought of something else. I thought of Sundays he had missed, I thought of friends he could not make and I thought of this ecstasy which he could not experience. And then came the lessons he could not learn too . Had he invested all that enthu he has into something more fruitful , it might have helped him and his family more in the time to come. But then when today carries a much bigger question mark over their survival, how can he afford to go to school or learn something that is not of any immediate use. At least, he is not begging .He is helping his family, if any, to survive in this forest of much stronger animals.