The Crowded Platform

Kharaab se kharaab chai. Manoharpur ki kharaab se kharaab chai.”

As the train slowly pulled into the station, a shrill and high pitched voice, woke me up from my sleep. It is not every day that you wake up to such a hubbub of activities. Among the yelps of numerous vendors and hawkers, trying to outdo one another to attract customers, this chaiwala seemed to have effortlessly caught everyone’s attention with his distinctive voice. And just like everyone else, I peeped outside the window, half asleep, rubbing my eyes, trying to spot the chaiwala in the crowded platform but I couldn’t. It had been 5 minutes since I last heard his voice. My urge to have a steaming hot cup of tea seemed to have died a thousand deaths by then but I hadn’t stopped looking. I heard the train honk twice before it started to pull out of the station and suddenly, a tumult of shouting and screaming broke out. People, mostly hawkers started hopping on to the steps of the moving train. Among them emerged a man of short stature, with a skinny built, precariously holding onto the metal handle while balancing the aluminium kettle and a bucket stashed with reddish brown clay cups. His face looked hot, rather flushed because of the fear of not being able to catch the train but a part of him believed if he ran a little faster, he might just catch it. Without considering the baggage he was carrying, or the sweat that was pouring down his face, making his eyes sting, he threw caution to the wind and took a chance and hopped into the train. The next thing I saw was him wiping the sweat off his forehead, taking a moment to catch his breath before starting his usual business.

Kharaab se kharaab chai. Manoharpur ki kharaab se kharaab chai.

Tea Served In A Clay Cup

His voice echoed in the compartment as he briskly walked down the aisle, with his aluminium kettle and a bucket stashed with clay cups, to get a first shot at the thirsty lovers. It took me only a few seconds to recognize his voice because it was the same voice which woke me up in the morning. He was the same chaiwala, who everyone was looking for on the crowded platform. I watched him push his way through the crowd, advancing towards my seat and I couldn’t wait any longer so I asked him to pour me a cup of tea. He bent down to remove the cover from the spout, picked up a kullhad and poured some tea in it. He handed me over the steaming hot cup in exchange for money. Then he moved forward, squeezing through the narrow aisle, rubbing shoulders with constantly moving passengers, chanting his distinctive calling song, serving tea to the other passengers and soon, his voice faded out in the hustle bustle.

View From The Train

In the meanwhile, I was enjoying the petrichor smell emanated by the kullhad, which filled the air spaces inside the train with complete bliss. Also the warmth of the hot beverage comforted my cold hands and as I took a sip from the kullhad, I felt an earthy and organic rush in my mouth and then, I thought to myself, “Should have gotten two cups of tea instead of just one.” Then after finishing my tea, I sat by the window looking outside, to catch a glimpse of an early morning. I could see the vast stretches of lush green fields covered in mist, and mellow flowers, in hues of orange and pink, too hard to resist. The cool wind that blew over my face filled my nostrils with the smell of dew and the kaash phool that swayed beautifully on the banks of rivers, looked like a view, too good to be true. I remember the intensely sweet floral aroma of the shiuli tree on the way and how its flowers bloom at night and drop down from the branches, at the first rays of sunlight. Also the murky pond filled with lotus blooms, that calmed my senses with their exotic perfume. And when the crisp yet damp air blew through my hair, it reminded me of nothing, but what a wild yet exquisite melange of emotions is the autumn!

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