2017, Column, LazyEye, Telegraph Calcutta

My chaiwala and Our Chaiwala

Every once in a way I feel the need for a little bit of Mahadeb. Just a little bit, no more than what, if we are still allowed the use of imagination without violating the law (or the sanctioned lawless), could have been at a certain hour a vodka shot. But for the hours that he has it on offer, Mahadeb’s stuff can be no less stimulating. It helps that he hasn’t yet banished puffs of nicotine from floating about him.

Wellbeing tyrants would better know what that does to the body, but what my soul wants I want to know best: it needs, every once in a way, a Mahadeb break.

Mahadeb serves out off-the-coals tea in bhaanrs, which in other geographies some may recognise as tiny earthen tumblers; he’s a chaiwala. That can be a famed and fortunate thing to be. Chaiwalas go far. Or some do. Or one did. That one isn’t Mahadeb.

Mahadeb made critical career errors, not that he appears to terribly care. He never wrestled alligators as a child. He didn’t climb three-fourths of the way up Mt Everest’s torso wearing slippers. He didn’t feed soldiers departing to blow the Chinese off our frozen frontiers. The 56-inch claim that is Mahadeb’s to make is that he is probably that high sans shoes that he doesn’t anyway possess. He didn’t lead the Indepen-dence struggle of NewIndia after sixty years of NothingHappened. He never did his mentors the necessary pupil duty of relieving them of the burdens of such nettle-ridden things as crowns; or of easing them into protectively mothballed duvet-comforts so their late life turned a calm and restful place, unvisited by the exhausting demands of office, or the ambition of someday having to achieve it. He can’t be bothered inventing new charms – or dares – to seduce television each day. Mahadeb has never ever been on television. You ought to understand you are nobody if you are not on television. Mahadeb is less than a nobody. He’s not on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, Periscope, SnapChat, Telegram, LinkedIn, nowhere. Is Orkut still around? Mahadeb was never on Orkut either. The only platform he is on is a knocked-up tin and timber kiosk grouted into the pavement. Chaiwalas have gone far but Mahadeb isn’t going anywhere; he’s a goner.

I’ve often wondered if Mahadeb knows that more famous peddler of his trade – The Chaiwala. But what a daft wonderment that is. About as daft as wondering whether The Chaiwala knows Mahadeb. Of course he doesn’t, Mahadeb’s a nobody. And of course Mahadeb knows The Chaiwala. Every hole knows the sun that frequently comes to shine on it, but you wouldn’t expect the sun to know every hole it shines on, would you?

Even so, my sweet-as-tea suspicion is that the unexceptional Mahadeb may have spurred a few great ideas that keep us inspired: MakeInIndia, for that’s where he makes his tea; StartUpIndia, for each day is a start stoking coal on the stove; SkillIndia, for the sheer artistry of his manner of tossing tea into those cups; YogaDay, for squatting in ardha-padmasana all day on the slaked edge of a simmering stove. He’s also sworn to Swachh Bharat, those immortal last two words LoinCloth uttered before he was felled in the cause of making Bharat a little more Swachh, and which is why his memory has been kindly bestowed omniscience as symbol of scavenging. Don’t you believe the fakenews fib he cried “Hey Ram!”; that’s spurious history requiring, like much else invented during NothingHappened, urgent correction. In any event, “Hey Ram!” is all wrong; it should be “Jai Shri Ram!” That correction has happened. There’s another related sin heretics commit. They say “Jai Siya Ram!” Who’s Siya? That correction too has happened; Siya has been broomed out.

Mahadeb does his bit for SwachhBharat, he puts out bins for neat disposal of his bhaanrs. To little purpose; he sits marooned in used ware carelessly fired in the direction of waste receptacles and almost never deposited to the intended destination. But then that’s to be expected. Men aim poorly, they always have.

Just how poorly men aim you’d know,

If you’ve ever stepped into the Gents;

Of how things are in the Ladies, bro,

How would I ever have any sense.

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