CHAI PE CHARCHA
There is a ‘tapri’ (chaiwala) just outside the suburban degree-college, where I visit these days to hold soft-skills programme. As I reach very early in the morning, I love to relish a cutting chai, sitting there for a few minutes, before I walk into the college premises. Today morning, as I was sipping my cutting, a tall elderly-man settled next to me on the baakda. Seeing me in my formal attire, he asked me, “Are you a visiting faculty in this college?”
“Yes sir, you can say so,” I replied.
“What do you teach, here?” the elderly man asked.
“We have a training outfit, Sir,” I explained, “I and my associates conduct some soft-skill programme for the students here.
“Very nice… Very important,” the gentleman said, “I did that for several years in many reputed Mumbai-colleges.”
“I am happy to hear that, Sir,” I exclaimed. He was quite an elderly man and looked frail, too. So, I asked him, “Are you retired now, Sir?”
“Well, a teacher never retires,” the gentleman said with a smile, “I have undergone multiple surgeries… I just finished my morning walk. Though I don’t do the teaching rounds, I am very active, agile and alert.”
“You are, Sir,” I complimented the elderly man, “I could grasp that, the moment you initiated this discussion. Only active, agile and alert people can do that… They never fade into the sunset!”
“Teaching is a very satisfying profession,” the gentleman said, “We shape so many lives.”
“It’s particularly satisfying when we help young ones in a college like this, Sir,” I said, “They come from very ‘ordinary’ families.”
“I do not like to consider them as students from ‘ordinary’ families, “the elderly man said, “Dhirubhai Ambani lived with his family in his 150-SF chawl in Bhuleshwar, which they have still kept despite all the wealth in the world they have amassed. It’s the ‘ordinary’ who become the ‘extra-ordinary in life.”
“Well-said, Sir,” I voiced my agreement with the gentleman, “It’s the underdogs that show that fighting spirit.”
“Another thing you need to keep drilling into them is not to be anxious about their poor English,” the elderly man continued, “They can accomplish a lot in life even if they are not good in English… They need to be good in their respective skills… and, they should have the fire in them to shine.”
The man had seen twenty more years of life than what I had. Someone, who once sold chai was now ruling our nation… His broken English had not stopped him from accomplishing what he had… Yes, just as Dhirubhai Ambani…
While there is something in the human spirit that can make a chaiwala a Prime Minister and a petrol-pump attendant a billionaire, sorry to say this: all chaiwalas cannot become Prime Ministers and all petrol-pump attendants cannot become billionaires…
The elderly man had left this unsaid… and, perhaps, left it for me to say!
“Bhaiya, aaj ki chai bahut acchi lagi,” I said gladly to the chaiwala, as I left his tapri.