Over a cup of tea










Right across the street from the glass lined luxury hotel, you'll see the old man selling towels. You’ll find his frail, yet taut form sitting on the Bata showroom steps, near the Deccan Chronicle office in Secunderabad. On days under the May sunlight, he’ll sit with a handkerchief tied to his balding, withered pate. During the rains, you’ll probably see him receding to the higher steps, guarding himself from the elements.

Kishan, now 82, travels every week to wholesale dealers in markets in Secunderabad and Hyderabad. He fell down and hurt his knees a few weeks back, and if you look carefully, you’ll probably still see a slight limp in his still-dignified gait. Through high powered spectacle lenses turned amber with age, he’ll smile at you and, if you have the time, share his story.

Like numerous Sindhis who emigrated from Pakistan after the partition, Kishan, then a young man in his thirties, clambered out of a third-class train compartment at the Secunderabad railway station. It was a rainy day. The year was 1949. Haunted by communal killings, Kishan came to the city with only a bundle of rugs and his wife in tow. Kishan fell from middle class dignity as over the years, his ventures failed. The couple also turned out childless.

When you see him today, you’ll meet a man who radiates an intense aura of dignity, able to stand taut in the scorching Hyderabad summer and hawk his wares. Even today, the proud Sindhi makes his daily trip across Secunderabad to hawk his towels. He would start out in the afternoon from the Sangeet theatre circle and come to the Bata steps in the evening.

He is well over eighty, and makes less than 50 Rupees a day. If you meet him around 7:30, you’ll invariably see him sip his regulation cup of Irani chai. “I can’t really make the trip to the tea stall any more. The fellows there now serve me at the steps.” When the tea boy finally comes, he grumbles, complaining that the boy always charges him a Rupee less than the usual price for a cup of tea. “Arre, I too am imaandaar; why charge less for me? Is it because I’m old?” He asks. The tea boy is half amused, and runs along.

Business has not been well for Kishan since the last few months. “I can’t make daily trips to the markets like I used to, and am confined to standing or sitting in one place at a time.” A few weeks back, he reveals, “I fell down while climbing the footpath and injured my knees. Thanks to my wife, I’m on my feet again,” he beams. “She is growing old, and we only have each other for company, but she takes good care of me.” And somewhere beneath his eyes gone cloudy with age, you'll probably see a gleam every time he speaks of her.

Buy a towel and talk to Kishan Kripalani over a cup of chai. He’ll probably tell you about imaandaari, and why you need to stick to your values. But most of all; hear him out simply to revel in his sheer will to live.

He has many stories to tell.

7 comments:

Shweta said...

:)

Rambler said...

Where have all such Imaandaar people gone? We have a surfeit of Kalmadis and Hoodas!

jorge said...

Great story plenty of emotions.

Jorge

Fully grown fuzzy Hipposaur said...

@Rambler: True, sir, very true.
@Jorge: Thanks

Anonymous said...

you discovered hyderabad the way i did bombay :)

ramya sriram said...

I don't remember how I got to this blog, but I definitely want to meet this person. I'm surprised that I haven't read/heard about him before, considering that I'm from Hyd.

You might find this bookshop interesting:

http://nacre.blogspot.com/2010/01/kadambi-booksellers.html

Fully grown fuzzy Hipposaur said...

Ramya, Thanks for your comment. The Hipposaur confirms that he is aware of Kadambi book store, but has never been there. That's been one big regret ever since he's moved base to Delhi.