“Kharab Se Kharab Chai Piyo” … “Kharab Se Kharab Chai Piyo” … “Kharab Se Kharab Chai Piyo”. I asked for a cup and as I took a sip, the repetitive chant by the vendor on the train flooded my mind with fond memories … a flashback of sorts. It was probably twenty years ago, I was accompanying my father on train trip to Calcutta. The Steel Express leaving the station amidst all the noise and commotion among the other travelers. I used to love sitting next to the window … the wind in my face … lush green fields rushing by. As the train chugged into Sardiha, a small hamlet before Kharagpur, the voice of an old man in a shrill voice, “Kharab Se Kharab Chai Piyo” … “Kharab Se Kharab Chai Piyo” … “Kharab Se Kharab Chai Piyo”. The words literally meant – “drink the worse than worse tea”. As a ten year old it was kind of weird for me to see someone selling something stating that it is bad. It amused me all the more to see everyone buying tea and enjoying the same as they took a sip from the bhads (earthen cups). Little did I understand that the old man had devised some sort of reverse psychology to sell his product. Curiosity got me and I coaxed my father to share a cup with me. The tea was indeed good. Probably the best I have had anywhere in a train. The old man does not sell tea anymore. I have not seen him in at least 5 years or so. His sons have taken over the business and you would notice them on trains between Jhargram and Kharagpur every day. The tea still tastes fine. Apparently the old man has a homemademasala which he uses to prepare tea. I guess the recipe will be passed down the generations to come. As I took another sip the young man moved on, as the old man did, “Kharab Se Kharab Chai Piyo” … “Kharab Se Kharab Chai Piyo” … “Kharab Se Kharab Chai Piyo”.
Calcutta (Kolkata after the name change, I still love the old name) is one city which is infamous for probably the most chaotic traffic system. The only city where the traffic police would change the signals manually after commuters prompt them by honking incessantly. Park Circus (a se7en point crossing) is still manually managed by around ten – fifteen odd traffic policemen. Any new visitor would be in awe seeing the seamless co-ordination among them as thousands of vehicle criss cross probably the busiest crossing in the city. It’s not that this city does not know commuting without honking or that they do not have any civic sense, if you may call it that. Keep aside the fact that even the best of cars in this city carry at least one small dent some where reminding you of the chaos it went through.
That moment when no one honked took me by surprise, made me get off my bike to investigate whats up with this city. There I notice a car driver stop his car right in the middle of the road. The traffic started piling up. But, no one honked. This gentleman got down to help an old man cross the busy crossing. It seems the old chap had been standing there for quite sometime. Everyone, including the unruly bus drivers waited, waited for the driver to help the old man.
So, people who call this city chaotic and a mess, let me point out, this is just one of those instances which might make you swallow the word you just blurted out. For once just ignore the negatives and look out for the lesser joys of life. I guess it was a matter of realizing that among all these commuters crossing that day, this one man decided to take a stand to help this old chap. All others acknowledged the fact and No One Honked!!!