THE BRAVE CHACHI
The clock struck 12.00 at midnight. Ben downed his pen.
Got up from the wooden chair and moved towards the shelf and took the yellow
shawl hanging in the upper row.
“Come, let’s go for a chai” called Ben.
“No”, replied Raj,
his roommate and commented “The shawl is eye-catching”
“I bought it from the IP Mall
yesterday for 2000 bucks” replied Ben proudly and added “when you have a
lie-down don’t bolt the door. Just shut it. Bye”
Ben, donning the Kashmiri shawl on
his shoulder – already puffed-up with sweater and jacket-, stepped down out of
room no. 122 of Birla Hostel –C. Chill breeze socked
gently in his face – the only uncovered part. Humming tunes, Ben moseyed towards
the main entrance of Banaras Hindu University. Sodium
lamps on the sides of the Hostel Road, the lights from different hostels and
the shaft of light from the vehicles passing by ousted the darkness. Ben
sporadically touched and felt the velvetiness of that Kashmiri shawl. Crossing
the main entrance he reached Chachi’s Chai Dhookan.
A raised platform of wood, two
benches, a stool, a stove, three or four casks containing milk, some glasses,
few tins containing chai pathi
biscuits, beedis, cigars, pans, gudkhas and a plate containing beetle nuts, lime and
tobacco leaves in the al fresco constituted chachi’s
chai dhookan. Behind
this dhookan was a grocery shop – closed by
now. Ben took his seat in a blue bench and ordered “ek
special chai”. Chachi
was busy serving chai, pan, gudkha, biscuits, beedis
In a few minutes chachi
– a wiry, rickety, anemic lady of 35 – came with a lovely smile and handed me a
kullad and filled it with chai.
Her hands, rather her whole body, were trembling as she poured the chai. As Ben surveyed her, the flimsiest sari she
wore as a substitute for a woolen shawl caught Ben’s attention. Somebody from
the next bench conveyed “continuously for five days the temperature was around
Voley of Questions gushed out of Ben’s
so week, why does she work the whole day and night?”
couldn’t she make her children work?”
she employ a child labourer by giving pea nuts?”
Ben decided to wait till chachi frees herself. Ben waited for about an hour
sipping some more chai, eating biscuits and
site seeing. As he was scrutinizing Lanka, Malviji’s
statue caught his attention. The light of the sodium lamp was reflected clearly
in a few dew drops in the cheek of Malviji’s statue.
It seemed to Ben as if Malviji was crying
Chachi sat to rest. She drove the stool near
the stove and took her seat. Seeing Ben, she asked, “what betta?
You are here for a long time…”
“I want to ask something” replied Ben
“To me?” laughed chachi
and said “ask whatever you want”
“When do you come to start the day’s
work?” was Ben’s first question
“At 8.30 in the morning” said she
with a surprise.
“When will you go back for lunch?”
“At 2.00 in the afternoon”
“When will you come again here?”
“At 10.00 in the night and will be
here till 3.00 in the early morning”
“What are your children doing?”
“The elder boy is reading in 9th,
the second girl in 7th and the third girl in the 6th
class. All study in Malviji’s Kendriya
“Being so weak, why don’t you make
them work in the dhookan?” asked Ben with a
sense of humanity.
“They do work, but after their
school-time and regular study-time. Vishwas takes care of the dhookan in the evening after returning from the
school. Prema and Sahaya
cook and water the vegetable plants. I just take care of the dhookan. That’s all” replied chachi
“See there. See how energetically the
two boys work in Sharmaji’s chai
dhookan. See here. See how his own children
work in Yadavji’s dhookan.
See the shop next to it. See there too two children are working. You too should
bring your children to work or employ some kids to work in the dhookan. With kids a peanut salary will do” said
“I am proud of not employing child labourers. Children can support their family
but not at the cost of education or child abuse. I will go to the extent of working
the whole 24 hours, yet I will never give consent to child labour. Come what
may” proclaimed chachi.
Marveled at Chachi’s
determination, Ben took his shawl and draped her. Touching her feet, he left
On his return, Ben threw a glance at Malviji’s statue. Now he found a smile of happiness too in
that moaning statue of Malviji.