The Chai Walla's cousin ... February 22 2013, 0 Comments

At 6.00 am this morning my eyes shot open. 

4 days left before I travel and I can physically feel the time tick. 

I've grown accustomed to this feeling - of being completely out of breath as the future of the World depends on whether you manage to meet all your suppliers in time.

I hit my first wall when I approached the printing workshop and realized that I could not hear the calming thumping of blocks being chiseled.  

The ten different radios were not simultaneously blaring Bollywood music. 

The smell of chai being brewed - absent. 

I could feel my temperature rise and my eyes widen. Trying to remain as composed as I could I began lightly in my bizarre mix of hindi-english:

'Bhaaiiiiiiiiiiiiisssaaaaabbbbbbbbbbbbbb, why, why, why!!!! Mausam bhaud Acha!! Storm is gone!! Whyyyy????!!' Forehead permanently crinkled.

We had experienced a bizarre storm a few days before which halted all printing due to pigments reaction to moisture. 

A group of some ten out of twenty printers were chatting away by their tables.

'No work today, Chai Walla's cousin expired '. 

My initial reaction was of complete confusion. Why would an entire factory stop working for the death of someone with whom they never met. 

Some of the artisans don't even know the Chai Walla by his first name. 

I looked at them blankly, got into the car and drove back to my office. I couldn't argue with death. 

I was now REALLY starting to stress.

When I entered my office I realized that the cleaning lady wasn't there. I looked to my phone to read 

'SORRY!! NEIGHBOR'S SHADI. OFF WORK FOR THREE DAYS. HAVE TO GO TO VILLAGE'

If it wasn't a funeral, it was a wedding. Plus I thought that we had reached the end of 'shadi' season, weddings were no longer taking place every two days. 

I sat at my desk and started to lightly tap my forehead on the table. How could they work like this, how unprofessional. 

People passed and married all the time !! 

I continued, silently cursing the day away. 

Until it dawned on me. 

The Chai Walla is an integral part of the factory. His job is to serve lovingly made chai while he sings and teases all the artisans, around four times a day. And he does it well. Therefore his happiness is of the utmost importance and although they may not know his name, they will close up shop to show that his sadness means something to them. That they appreciate his untiring efforts to make them happy. 

The cleaning lady works everyday to make sure that one day she could also throw an extravagant wedding for her children. This is something really important to her. Why shouldn't she spend three days enduring the happiness and stress of her neighbor's important accomplishment. 

I couldn't help but suddenly feel that I was the one who maybe had it all wrong ... 


So here is a little tribute to our Chai Walla's cousin.

(Photos courtesy of ecru)



N.K