Friday, May 8, 2009

A big adda with HotTea and cold 'Snakes'

I am not In Singapore or any other adjoining country where live snakes are showcased and wait for the customer's choice. This is a crowded teashop near No. 14 railway gate of Barrackpore Station. Barrackpore is a suburb of Kolkata being about 35 KM away from Main Kolkata. The teashop, I am talking, is one of the big Teashops providing sitting accomodation with Fans and TV(donated by a generous regular customer). Two huge kettles are always put on the earthen stove which constantly fumes out the steam. This hot water is pour on glasses through tea stainers containg the dust tea leaf and then milk and sugar is added depending on the order of the customer. One boy supplies the tea and another gives 'Snakes'i.e. cold biscuits from the big glass Jars.The word 'Snakes' are marked by bold with black paint on each jar. New customers point out the spelling mistake, suggest the owner to correct it as 'Snacks'. The regular ones enjoy the spelling mistake and each time and breaks into laughter and tells the owner "Bishuda, Tomar thanda snake e bish aache ki nai( are your cold 'Snakes'.poisonous or harmless). Bishuda giggles and opens his fronttoothless mouth,"Snake Paichhen to dhoirah Khan, benche thakile paise diben( enjoy the snake and give me money if you remain alive after this). Sometimes the owner Bishuda explains that one mischievous painter while making the annual painting made this mistake. The paint can be removed by kerosene but he is afraid that the 'snakes' in the jars may smell. Now he does not have much time to talk or giggle. Locals from Sealdoh are coming one after another and many people want to have a stop at Bishuda's teashop before leaving for their destinations. Six child labours are now pressed into service. While two washes and cleans the dozens of used glasses, two others serve tea, one senior boy along with Bishuda make tea and another one the 'Saap Walah (snake Charmer)' (as people now call him) moves with the glass jar, serves snacks. It is not only the good but cheap tea costing only Rs 1.50 and 'snakes'but also the discussions that goes on here starting from Politics to movies to sports. One young man named Sandip arrives after 7.30 P.M with his gang of 4 and few others also joins. His narrations and comments on any topic keep others spell bound. You may feel that Bergmann,Spillberg,Satyajit Ray. P.K.Mukherjee, Baichun Bhutia should have consulted him before doing their great activity and Greig Chappel should have been his student before taking over his India assisignments.
On sundays, particularly from late Morning to Noon, the picture is different. The regular ones start coming and wait for 2nd round of tea till Sandip arrives. Bishuda besides cold 'snakes' offers hot 'Ghugni' and bread toast. TV is audible and people enjoy viewing it or reading Newspapers and 'addda' in which Sandip is the center person.
That Sunday was just like that. Sandip Just now discarded both Manmohan Singh and Advani as next Prime Minister and was busy in eating 'Ghugni'. His Tea like many of us was getting delayed. He Yelled for it once more and Bishuda was giving normal replies" just a minute". Sandip with his problem solving quest looked at the tea supply Chain and quipped" Bishuda, chhotan, Lakka, Tara, your "Sishu bahini"(Child labours) are all on leave today" Bishuda heaved a deep sigh and said" They shall remain so. Yesterday, Municipalty babus came and warned for employing Child labours. I am on the lookout for adult employees. Give me some time." Bishuda's reply now has drawn everybody's attraction and evidently that became an issue and very soon a light strom in all tea cups.
"Now is the time for them to play and go to schools"
"How do you think the already overcrowded schools shall accomodate these dropouts from teashops, restarants and workshops. They shall be accomodated by the underworld people."
" Yes crime rate shall increase. These kids tasted money and they can easily be lured."
"Furthermore, tomorrow, Bishuda shall have to employ adults and his overhead shall increase and so the price of Tea."
Sandip was only listening and siping his cup of tea he was concentrating more on seeing the a repeat telecast of a reality contest show on a TV channel. It was a contest for child singers. Now-a-days there are several TV channels telecating these reality shows in the prime time. The camera is also focussing on a child talent who despite the heat of the contest was sleeping, possibly the time of the telecast coincide with her time to sleep.
The discussions were gradually fading and now Sandip broke his long sielence," Now Bishuda has a problem affecting us and there is possibly a solution." And now everybody stopped their discussions to listen to him" I have heard all these child labours to sing and we shall get more once we advertise a Tea selling singing competition. Abhijitda shall refine them with little training for singing and Somitda shall do the grooming. Tea companies shall come up with sponsorship for prizes. Panel of Judges will be among us and besides this people drinking tea may caste their votes on a slip to be purchased from Bishuda which shall not be more than the price of tea.People shall show this coupon and get a cup of tea free. Now no inspectors from Municipalty can object. Because they are not Child labours but child singers promoting tea as well as their talents and good grooming" People started smiling , gigling and Laughing loudly but some took it seriously.
"Yes ! these channels are doing the same thing. Singing is also a work. These TV channels are engaging Children for mass entertainment."
" You negative thinkers can't see that they are provided a very high platform for showcasing their talents. Free Grooming,training by experts and comments of these judges; each being a proved person in their field, are invaluable to all these budding talents."
" The Tv channel do not give any episode fee. Only fooding and Lodging are provided."
" The channels are simply putting child-labours for earning at their end. The children are not only deprived for playing games, they remain absent from their schools."
"Main thing is the greed of the Parents. Tell me which way they are different than the Parents of those child labours for this tea shop. At least here there is genuine need for money. But except a few most of the TV-Channel child labour's parents are doing this for a fake fame."
A middle aged man now told" There is nothing wrong if children gifted with talents take part in competetion music or any other thing. But let it not be on a commercial scale. let it not hamper their other normal activity. If done then do not stop Bishuda alone for engaging children in his shop."
Sandip broke his sielence"So Bishuda ask your Sishu-Bahini(Child labours) to come back and we shall hear the singing of them along with these channel show. If the Muncipalty babu's come ask them to use the remote button. In some channels they may see children singing competion."
Bishuda's closed his tea shop and now sells Hot Allochop near Talpukur Bazar just near a Big TV shop. His wife smashes the boled potatoes and marinate it with masala and his son coolects the money. Nether Bishuda Nor his son wears shorts. Let not the Municipalty Babus by mistake catch them as Child labour. People wait in a quee to buy AlloChop and watch the TV of the adjoining TV shop mostly showing the telecast of reality show of Children performing singing or telling Jokes.


Lazyani said...

Pradipda, these road side tea shops hold the microcosm of the state and are a perfect reflection of the nation in general.

About the reality shows showcasing the talents of children, less said the better. The first thing these do is kill the self esteem and the innocence of the child.

SGD said...

The narration of the roadside 'Cha-er dokaan' is a collage of so many facades of our society...
-The adda culture of Bengal...where anything from Don Bradman to Kurosawa, Astronomy of the local political circus can be deliberated uon...
-The problem of child labour.
-The unreal greed induced reality shows 'showcasing' children

Sucharita Sarkar said...


What a wonderful post....I laughed so much at the 'snakes'.

I remember 14 no gate very well. Our flat in Barrackpore (not the house, but the flat we later shifted to) was in Ganja Gully, which is very close to the Station, so the crowded station was very much a part of my life for a long time.

Sandy said...

Pradip, what a great write up! loved it! thanks so much for sharing!!

Sandy :)

Sandy said...

oh by the way i have the Vancouver Canada blog too to ya soon!

Little Girl Lost said...

pradip-da, thank you for taking me along on a trip for tea and snakes :)

barrakpore is a place very close to my heart, because it is where my fiance proposed to me (on gandhi-ghat to be precise)

khub nostalgic kore dile :)

sujata said...

Great Post, though I have never really stayed in Calcutta for long, the adda and cha is very much a bengali concept genetically, I think..maybe its cha that flows in our veins instead of blood. Really enjoyed the post. Gujarat where I was brought up is famous for the pronounciation of snacks as snakes.

Mampi said...

what an admixture of all the elements that make india what it is.
so real
such well written post.

Vancouver, Canada said...

Hi sweetie..

I have a new URL for my Vancouver Canada Blog

Much Love, Sandy x

Pradip Biswas said...

Thank You Lazyani, SGD, Sucharita,Sandy, LGL, Sujata, Mampi for your comments. Child labour is illegal in Tea shops, swwet shops, Garrages but not in TV Channels and nobody objects to it.

nituscorner said...

Apart from the harsh realities of life ,i like the concept of dhaba n chai on the road side .....

Babli said...

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I liked your blog very much. Now I have become your follower so I will be visiting your blog.
I appreciate for the wonderful post.Its fantastic.Keep writing.

Pinku said...

wow...what a live pic u have put up here...there are scores of such shops across the country...and my heart bleeds for those kids...

but the plight of those reality show kids is no better...egged on by overambitious parents those kids have to juggle studies, practise, challenges, jealouses not to mention celebrityship and successes and failures at such a tender age...

sanjoy chakraborty said...

Your blog is very nice. Well written.
You are welcome in my blog.

Sucharita Sarkar said...


I have tagged you at Past Continuous. Looking forward to your take on it.

Babli said...

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Awaiting for your new post.