“Anyone up for a cup of tea?” repeated the woman continuously in the middle of the government office waiting room. She kept her voice moderate to be audible for people surrounding her but careful not to interrupt people discussing their private matters there. She just wanted attention of potential customers who might have the hankering for a cup of tea in winter or people offering tea to each other as a good gesture before starting a new transaction in the government office.
In her mid forties, she wore a normal printed cotton saree. She carried a number of plastic cups to offer her tea to the customers on her right hand. On her left hand she carried a kettle full of tea she just made. Torn clothes wrapping the handle of the tea kettle worked as an insulator that helped her to carry the hot kettle wherever she went with minimal heating issues. For her, she needed to carry the cattle for the entire working day in the office. She always carried a bag hung across her body to carry some biscuits and collect money that she earned vending. She left the bag hung diagonally across her body. Continuously carrying the bag like this for a long time over years left an impression on her neck on both sides. It was like a scar that she could not hide. People could see the scar on one side of her neck as another side was hidden under the bag belt. Her left palm also carried similar scars after carrying the hot kettle for such a long time every day for some years now.
She woke up early in the morning to travel to this office. She owned a very tiny room beside the office. She could accommodate a gas burner and adjust herself to prepare tea whenever she needed over there. In the early morning, her initial task was to provide tea for the government officials before they start working for the day. Each and every officers in the office paid her a small monthly sum for her tea three times a day, once in the morning, in the afternoon and finally in the evening. After taking care of the officials on duty, it was her time to sell tea to the people who came into the office for service. On usual days, the footfall in the office was not much but she never missed any auspicious days or days after a holiday when the crowd was much more and it meant possibility of better business for her.
Whenever asked by a customer for a cup of tea, she lifted the kettle on her left hand and poured tea on the small plastic cups she held on her right hand. She accepted the money from the customers carefully in her right hand and put in the bag resting on her side. In case she needed to return the change on money or offer biscuits as an add on to the tea, she always had to put the cups in the bag and do the needful and again take those cups back on her right hand. Sometimes she wished if she were having one more hand to help her out but she did not mind.
She survived her husband by five years now. She followed the footsteps of her husband of vending tea in this office. She could not think of anything else as she had a ten years old son to look after and it was not much profitable business but she could earn her rice and lentils from this and she was welcomed by the officers after demise of her husband. It was a bit less exhausting than other tasks she could take up as she had to take care of her home as well as she was the bread earner and homemaker in her small house.
On an average, daily, she prepared tea eight to ten times a day as she did not want her customers to sip on tea that was not piping hot or re heated which drove the flavor away. She was honest and committed towards her duty.
It was a usual day and she was about to finish her business. She prepared tea for the last time for the day and served the officials in the evening. She went downstairs to her small place and washed every utensils she used that day to make tea or otherwise. The very next day was weekly holiday in the office which meant a holiday for her as well. She washed the burner and the entire place of hers. Once done, she rode her bicycle towards her home. She thought about the pile of tasks lying ahead. She needed to cook for the night, wash clothes after returning to home.
After reaching her house, she entered into the small room that she shared with her son. Her son was trying to read under the tube light dimly lit on top of his head. He was seating on the ground and looked at his mother smiling. She did not spend time talking to him as she was tired after a long week and needed to finish her pending tasks for the day and badly wanted to rest. She took all the clothes that needed washing for the day and went to the nearby tube well. She spent an hour washing the clothes and then went to the bathroom to freshen up for the day.
Upon returning to the room, she was surprised. She saw two cups of tea in the middle of the room on top of a dish. She could smell aroma of tea infused with ginger filled the room. He looked at her son smiling, sitting by the dish of tea. She put down the bucket of wet clothes she just washed on the ground and went close to her son. The boy lifted a cup and offered it to his mother and asked “How was your day mother?”