[ultimate_heading main_heading=”Sharmaji, short story by Parag Chitnis – Issue.XXVI : March 2017 ” main_heading_color=”#1e73be” sub_heading_color=”#8224e3″ spacer=”line_with_icon” spacer_position=”bottom” line_style=”dotted” line_height=”1″ line_color=”#1e73be” icon_type=”custom” icon_img=”id^48|url^http://ashvamegh.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Ashvamegh-ICO.jpg|caption^null|alt^Ashvamegh Journal Icon|title^Ashvamegh ICO|description^null” img_width=”48″ main_heading_style=”font-weight:bold;” main_heading_font_size=”desktop:34px;” line_width=”3″ margin_design_tab_text=””]humour….[/ultimate_heading]

Introduction to the Author:

Parag Chitnis is a short story writer and a scriptwriter. He has written short stories for college magazines, and scripts for short films and video sketches. He has worked as co-director and editor for many short films and a college-based sitcom. Graduated from IIT Gandhinagar, he is currently working on his own venture in the field of video content generation.



(Based on ‘A cup of Tea’ by ‘Katherine Mansfield’)


The story began with a vessel filled with boiling milk. Two sweaty hands moved to grab a plastic sugar box with a pink coloured lid. The chaiwala added sugar in the boiling milk and replaced the pink lid. Then he picked up another plastic box with the same coloured lid. It had tea powder mixed with some masala. Who knows what that masala was? The chaiwala counted as he added the tea powder in the boiling milk spoon by spoon. The aroma of the masala filled in the cold evening air. Sharmaji loves this aroma. Any tea-lover will love it. This aroma- like a soup before a meal- creates, if there’s something called, appetite for tea. The chaiwala took a long spoon and started to stir the milk. The aroma became dense as sugar, tea powder, and the masala mixed with the boiling milk. Sharmaji couldn’t wait any more for his tea. But, what else could he do? He had to wait. The chaiwala continued to stir for what seemed like hours to Sharmaji. Just like a child watching his mom cooking his favourite dish, Sharmaji watched the chaiwala stirring the tea. The chaiwala picked up a cloth to get the vessel down from the stove. He filtered the tea into another vessel. Oh, the aroma! Sharmaji lost himself in that aroma and came back to reality only when the chaiwala had brought him his glass filled with hot tea. He missed seeing the chaiwala pouring tea in other glasses which he then handed to the people sitting next to Sharmaji. Anyways, Sharmaji was trying to ignore those people.

Pandeyji, who was sitting next to Sharmaji, continued to talk in excitement, and Sharmaji continued to ignore him. What else could Sharmaji do? Sachin had got out on duck today. Sharmaji heard Pandeyji describing the four Dhoni had hit to finish the match. Sharmaji doesn’t like Dhoni. He’s a Tendulkar fan. He had little interest in knowing how Dhoni saved the match. Only if Sachin had played well, Sharmaji would have described each of his shot- just like Pandeyji was describing Dhoni’s- and tell Pandeyji and others that we can’t win any game without Sachin. Oh, God! Sharmaji missed those days.  It had been a while since Sachin had lost his form and Sharmaji had lost his interest in sitting with his neighbours for the evening tea and gossip. It seemed like yesterday when Sharmaji had spilled hot tea on his hand while describing how Sachin had scored a double century. He remembered a few more of Sachin’s good innings and Pandeyji’s voice ceased to exist for him.

The glass that Sharmaji was holding was thick and had tea till its top. He lifted the glass carefully to his lips and took a sip. Ahh! Hot masala tea in a cold evening like this! Nothing else can refresh Sharmaji’s mood after such a terrible performance by Sachin. He felt the hot tea flowing down his throat and then sudden hotness in his stomach.

Trying to avoid eyes of his neighbours, Sharmaji turned his face to another side. He saw people enjoying their masala tea and talking- probably about the match. Just like him, everyone else was also watching the match in their offices. Some say their bosses join them too for cricket matches. But Sharmaji’s boss wasn’t one of them. His boss had a typical ‘bossy nature’. Always wears a suit and a tie, never satisfied with Sharmaji’s or his colleagues’ work, occasionally smiles and rarely praises. No doubt Sharmaji hated his boss.

Sharmaji’s eyes caught a new face. That was of a boy around ten year old. He wore a dull grey shirt and a half-pants which could not hide the injury on his left knee. No, the shirt wasn’t dull grey. It must have been white when bought. Or maybe the boy had picked it up when someone had thrown it away. Who was he?

The boy went towards one of the men and put his hand forward. The man said nothing but signalled the boy to go away. The boy went to another man to beg. Sharmaji hadn’t seen this boy earlier. There was some construction work going on nearby. This boy must be some worker’s child. He might have wanted to buy some candy or something, and his parents wouldn’t have given him money. So he’d come out on the road and beg for it. Sharmaji found this very fascinating. How can someone just go to a stranger and ask for money? Sharmaji even struggles to ask for holidays to his boss whom he knows well. This boy was something new for him.

This boy reminded him of the story Mishraji from his office had told him. Last year, Mishraji had gone to Banaras with his wife and his mother-in-law. Visiting Banaras was Mishraji’s mother-in-law’s wish. She’d said she could die peacefully after that. They found a young boy- just like this one- on the streets of Banaras who hadn’t eaten for two days. Mishraji’s mother-in-law felt pity for him. So Mishraji fed the boy well and gave him good clothes. Mishraji had recalled this episode in front of all the office colleagues with pride. Even their boss had praised Mishraji, though only in one line while smoothening his tie. Sharmaji remembered how Gupta madam- a young colleague in his office- had smiled to show her teeth braces as Mishraji told this story. Sharmaji had never told such episode. He never had one to tell.

The boy in front of him was such an episode. Sharmaji finished his tea quickly and went towards the boy. The boy put his hand forward and murmured something, but Sharmaji couldn’t understand it.

“What?” He asked.

“I haven’t eaten since morning. Please give me some money.” The boy said.

“Where’re your parents?” Sharmaji asked curiously.

The boy shook his head and said, “Please give me some money. I’m hungry.”

“Come with me to my house. I’ll give you food.” Sharmaji offered him.

The boy was startled with this offer. Who would expect such an offer when asked only for a few pennies? Sharmaji liked the surprised expression on the boy’s face. Why wouldn’t he? He was the reason for that surprise.

“Come on!” Sharmaji insisted putting his hand on the boy’s back, “You like cream biscuits?”

The boy nodded keeping his eyes fixed on Sharmaji’s smiling face. What was he suspecting behind that face? Maybe a trap. Or a kind hearted man? How could the boy decide?

“I’ve a whole packet of cream biscuits,” Sharmaji said as if he was telling that he had 32 inches TV set.

Considering the boy’s half smile as yes, Sharmaji started walking towards his house. The boy, somewhat pushed by Sharmaji’s hand on his back, walked beside him.

“Come, don’t worry!”, “I’ve food for you. Cream biscuits and chocolates too.”, “You drink tea? Or Bournvita?”, “That apartment. Not very far na?”, “Fourth floor. We’ve elevator. No need to climb up the stairs.” Sharmaji played with different words till they reached the house. He didn’t want the boy to change his mind. After all, you don’t always get a chance to help others and feel proud about that. Sharmaji knows that there’re only a few moments for which people remember you. This was one of such moment for him. The moment for which Sharmaji’s boss would praise him and Gupta madam would smile showing her teeth braces.

Sharmaji rang the doorbell of his house. Still keeping one hand on the boy’s back he waited looking at the wooden door. Then he looked down at the boy. The boy stared back at him. Sharmaji smiled. The boy smiled back.

Sharmaji’s wife opened the door.

“Look, who’s with me!” Sharmaji said. Sharmaji’s wife was surprised to look at the beggar boy.

“What?” She said.

“This is…”

“Raju,” The boy said.

“Yes, Raju,” Sharmaji continued, “Come inside, Raju.”

The boy followed Sharmaji into the house.

“Get some water for us,” Sharmaji said to his wife.

Sharmaji’s wife was shocked with all this. Sharmaji never brings anyone to home after the evening tea except for a few occasions. Three months back he’d brought Pandeyji with him to show him the new sofa set they’d bought. And six months before that when they’d put on the new carpet on the floor. But this wasn’t any of such occasion to have guests. And this wasn’t the proper guest for any occasion.

“Come inside for a moment.” Sharmaji’s wife murmured in Sharmaji’s ear and went inside.

Sharmaji looked at the boy who was looking around the house while scratching near the injury on his left knee. He smiled and asked, “It’s nice na?”

The boy took a second to understand what Sharmaji was asking. He nodded in response without uttering any word. Sharmaji was about to ask him to sit but then stopped and said, “You wait here. I’ll be back in a minute.”

The boy nodded and watched as Sharmaji walked towards the kitchen.

In the kitchen, where the boy couldn’t see from the hall, Sharmaji asked his wife, “What?”

“What?” Sharmaji’s wife replied in an angry tone, “Who’s that boy? And what’s he doing in my house?”

“Oh come on!” Sharmaji tried to convince his wife, “He just asked for money to buy food. I brought him home. Give him something. Maybe a glass of milk and biscuits. That’s all!”

“Who is he?” Sharmaji’s wife tried to keep her voice low.

“Why’s that important?” Sharmaji asked, “Just give him something to eat.”

Sharmaji’s wife exhaled heavily. Her angry eyes were focused on Sharmaji, and her mouth was tight shut. Sharmaji stared back at her and said, “What’s the big deal?”

“No, nothing. Not a big deal.” Sharmaji’s wife said taking out a metal glass from a drawer. She filled it with water, “He can also have dinner with us if you say,” she continued in a sarcastic tone, “I’ll cook for him too. I’m a chef of your house, right? You can bring anyone here, and I’ll cook for them all without any complaints. First, I’ve to cook for your parents and now for this beggar. God knows whom you will bring tomorrow!”

“What does this have to do with my parents?” Sharmaji asked.

She exhaled heavily again, tried to throw away the anger, and wore a smile on her face as she walked out into the hall to hand the water glass over to the boy. Sharmaji didn’t want to talk to his wife further. So he followed her in the hall. Sharmaji’s wife turned, gave a sharp look at Sharmaji and walked back into the kitchen.

It was too early to start the preparation for dinner. So Sharmaji’s wife had nothing to do. Usually, she would sit on the sofa and watch TV, but as Sharmaji and his new guest were in the hall, she came back to the kitchen. She took out a round plate from the drawer. She put some Chana dal in it and started to look for pebbles or something non-edible in it.

After some time, Sharmaji came into the kitchen and said, “That boy is gone. I gave him some money to buy biscuits.”

“Good.” Sharmaji’s wife said in frustrated tone without looking up.

Sharmaji has never been able to understand his wife’s mood. She was angry when the boy was there and now when he was gone, she was still angry. Sharmaji had no solution for this. He came out in the hall and sat on the sofa picking up the newspaper which he’d read in the morning. He started to speculate tomorrow’s newspaper. Surely, it’d be flooded with praises for Dhoni. Everyone would be talking about how Dhoni saved us and all that. He hoped for nobody to criticize Sachin for his poor performance. He put the paper down. There wasn’t anything good in that. Then he picked up his mobile phone and dialled a number. He peeped into the kitchen as he heard the bell ringing on the other side of the phone. His wife was still busy with her Chana dal.

“Hey, mom. How’re you doing?” Sharmaji said on the phone, “Why don’t you and dad come and stay with us?”

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