“Chotu, ek full, ek cutting”
Abhinav said as soon as we saw the first chai ki tapri. Chai was his pehla pyar. Every morning, the first sentence I hear since the past six years is “Neetu chai dena.”
We sat on the red and white plastic chairs of the tapri, our daughter sitting on the table, her feet dangling of it. Within five minutes, Chotu was there with steaming hot cups and a plate of Parle-G biscuits. Aadhya started playing with the biscuits, building some weird shaped houses, and then crying when the roof fell down.
I saw Chotu looking at us from a distance, half hidden behind the tapri wall, his eyes gleaming and full of wonder. We called him to our table and he sheepishly pulled a chair and sat down. Aadhya looked at him and smiled, then broke her house and offered him a biscuit, he timidly took it.
We asked him what his name was. “Raghu” he said. Once he seemed a little at ease, he told us a little of his story. He was seven and had always wanted to go to school. He had three elder sisters and a baby brother, all back in ratnagiri. His mother was a teacher in the village school and his father, a post master.
His eldest sister, now 17, was to get married next year, and the groom’s family had demanded two tractors and an acre of land. Even with his parent’s income combined, they were falling short of money, so he decided to come work in Mumbai so that he could support his family financially. He had now worked for a couple of months and started liking the city. He told us,
“Ek din mera bhi Mumbai mei ghar hoga, aur voh badi vali balcony, jisme se dariya dekhega.”
Abhinav and I just looked at each other and smiled. Aadhya seemed very fascinated, she told him that she too wanted a house that overlooked the sea. They made a deal to buy a house side by side. We just smiled at their innocence.
“Chotu” the owner called, and he ran and waved us goodbye. We paid the bill and left. On the way back home I kept thinking about Chotu and his dreams.
Maybe someday when I am at the beach, I’ll look over to a random balcony and see a man sipping tea, I’d like to believe it’s you Chotu.
By Prachi Goradia
I’m nineteen, from Bombay and am currently studying literature. I love photography and reading too. I have a personal blog on WordPress, and I regularly post my work on Instagram. You can find Prachi also on https://bombaybookgirlwordpress.com/, @bombaybookgirl on Instagram and Prachi Goradia on Facebook.
Featured image by Harsh.