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Chotu - Tea Power

 

My brother has a very loud voice, one reason maybe being my grandmother, who had lost her hearing when we were young and hearing aid had not yet been imported. So sometimes my brother sounds furious even if he has not reached that level. One morning my brother has this furious voice. “Chotu, idar ahao (Chotu, Come here)”. Takes him two floors top and points at some spots on the floor “Yeh kisney giraya? (Who spilled that?). My brother’s loud voice scares most. “Maine nahi, woh doosra wala hoga (It’s not me, maybe the other one did.)” is the scared answer (if you didn’t know then most Nepalese people watch Bollywood movies and can understand and speak Hindi very well).

 

If you don’t have a shop in our lane, then you probably do not know Chotu. Chotu is a ten year old fellow with a self cut hair style and very dirty hands, who serves tea to most of the shops in our lane. You should see the walls of my office. With so many of his finger prints, if any crime happened, he sure will be the first one to be investigated. It’s been almost two years now, since he has been working for his tea shop owner.

 

 

Let me tell you one entertainer about this little always smiling fellow. My dad is a diabetic, meaning no sugar in his tea. One day its past two o’clock and Chotu, as usual came to serve tea. He puts one glass on my dad’s table and then goes upstairs to serve others. As he was nearly out my dad calls him with bit of anger, “Chotu, ismein chini hain (Chotu there’s sugar in my tea)”. Chotu stands for his master who made the tea “Nahi dala (actually meaning is no but when you listen to his rigidity it states – it’s impossible)”. My dad argues back, but this little one is stubborn, unmoved and has no intentions in giving up. My dad had lost the little argument and allows him to go. Just as he was about to leave, my tenant’s furious maid gives an echoed shout “Chotu, mere chai meh chini kuin nahi dala (why did you not put sugar in my tea?)”. No answer, just a grin face that said “all humans make mistake”. The diabetic had to drink the sugared tea and vice versa.

 

I still don’t get why India being one of the greatest economies could not afford to give Chotu a decent salaried job. A time when the Nepalese economy depends on remittance mostly from the Middle East, Chotu decides to come to Nepal. A few months back, Chotu had come back from his holidays to his home, near the Nepalese border. He came to serve on the usual two o’clock, but this time with a sad face. It reminded me of my school days when I stayed in the hostel. Let me tell you out of personasl experience that, its normal for any ten years old, away from home, to be homesick. “Chotu kya hua? (Chotu, what happened?)” I asked. The answer is a sad “Maan Nahi lag raha hai (I do not like it here)”. He sure didn’t like work and missed home. We have all heard those talks about child rights, child labor and foreign aid on education. But it seemed that those talks never turned to action for this dirty handed little fellow (I just saw his fresh finger prints on my wall, from where I was writing). And what could his poor helpless parents do. School is unaffordable and they could at least solve some miseries with the little that Chotu earned. So they send their children to work in a lonely city where the basic two rights, education and recreation, were out of their reach.

 

Some months back, I saw Chotu talking to a foreigner, nearly in his fifties. I asked my shop neighbor about who this guy actually was. It seemed that the good hearted man had felt a little sorry for Chotu and had agreed to pay his education. But he too had some defenses. He wasn’t that rich to support Chotu’s living costs. Chotu’s education meant he had to stop working, which meant more miseries to his family. I wanted to help but like many, I didn’t earn much to help a little and my society is more interested in donating to Buddhist monasteries and giving back to the gods rather than helping the needy. Can’t blame the ones who felt different. Most didn’t know he needed help and they never cared. Now the man, who at least tried to help, has returned. After all, the right way is difficult for all.

 

A week back, at around evening, Chotu came to my office to serve tea. Seeing my cell phone he asked me a question. “Is se India phone lagta hai? (Can you make a call to India with this?)” It was clear to any fool that he missed his family and wanted to talk to them. So without my dad’s knowledge, I let him make a call from my office to his home. After hours of several failed attempts on the three numbers of his small dirty pocket dairy, a Dobhi (Laundry person), who lived near his house, finally delivers his call to his father. The next few minutes are his mixed feeling of emotions and happiness. It could easily be read on his face. His talks are mostly family related, sending of the little salary that he earned and it ends with a “No, I do not smoke cigarettes”. A secret known to every person “Give a needy person a few moments of happiness and feel the worth within”. The only problem is that, he made me let him call his family twice after this one, on his brother’s new number. Well, it so damn weakens you when he makes the sad face, again and again.

 

A part of my world, never understood the exact meaning of racism. Nicknames that remind us of Chotu’s color, creed and origin can be often heard. Sometimes so much is being abused that elsewhere we all might have been taken action against. Chotu stood them all. For this poor smiley faced, with no education and the art of reading a dictionary, racism is a word that never existed. One day, after almost two years, I decided to ask his actual name. “Rajesh” he answers. I don’t remember how many brothers he had, but to my little embarrassment, his cousin, who spilled the tea on the floor, and I shared the same name.

 

One thing you will realize, if you look through the heart, is that everybody has a thing for him, his smiling face and always happy ways. You realize the environment only when Chotu is holidaying, at his home in India. Please bear my imagination, but everywhere he goes, he creates a wonderland with rainbows, best looking flowers, colorful sweet chanting birds and all those things you normally read in fairy tales. You don’t believe his smile could do all that, well try seeing through the heart. And in case you ever need a smile, do come by shop for a glass of tea.

 

Chotu is now, again back from his holidays. Home did'nt change him much this time and he doesn't look as sad as he had been before. Maybe he has got himself a little used to the city life, or maybe he has learned at a very young age that life may not always be about what you want or just maybe his sorrows cannot be seen in his face. 

 

By the way, he still touches the walls with his dirty hands to leave fingerprints, serves my dad sugared tea which also irritates the maid upstairs, he lied to my brother about the tea stains on the floor, my office phone bill has sky rocketed and the tea shop owner caught him smoking.

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