“Tea, hot tea” a tea vendor started drawing attention of the passengers as soon as the train had stopped at a Railway Junction in Bihar.
It was past ten at night. Only one or could be two passengers embarked into the train. It was a winter night, the platform was cold and no other vendor could be seen anywhere. Every single stall in the platform was closed for the night. Probably the boy was very hopeful about selling at least few cups of tea that late at night. Few passengers lifted the glass windows from their compartments and started calling him by ‘tea’ in low voice. It appeared that most of the passengers were sleeping, all the compartments were dark.
It was quiet inside and after the vendor had finished selling tea it became quiet outside as well. The train did not get the green signal to leave the platform, so it was waiting. The boy stood under a lamppost in the platform, facing the rear end of the train. In the dim light of the platform he started counting money. He appeared to be a boy of seven or eight. He was wearing a half pant and a sweater. While counting money, he was moving his legs up and down a little bit probably to keep them little warm. Probably the chilling cold of Bihar made him feel very uncomfortable in his half pant. Cold weather was making every single breath of his visible in the dim light. The tea kettle also had a source of fire attached to the bottom, at the center. While he was counting money his kettle was kept on the platform. After he had finished counting the money he turned his head, looked once again at the train, probably with the last hope if he could find any open window where he could find a passenger to whom he could sell some more tea.
Soon he lifted his kettle from the platform. He walked towards the other side of the platform, looked at both ends to make sure that no train was approaching the platform from either end, kept his kettle at the edge of the platform, got down on the railway track by holding the platform with his left hand, lifted his kettle and started walking on a vast open land, just across the rail line which looked mysterious in complete darkness. Just across the land a small village was proclaiming its existence by the display of one or two oil lamps which appeared like dim stars which had lost their brightness but still could be seen in a dark night. Probably the boy lived in one of those houses where his mother would be waiting for him with food which she would serve as soon as he would reach home. His income, whatever meager it could be, still counts; probably he had younger siblings, who could be asleep. After having his food when he would go to bed his mother would lift the oil lamp with her left hand, tilt the vessel towards the lamp with her right hand and take her head closer to the vessel to find if any food was still left there which she could eat before going to bed.
Author: Mintu Ghoshal