‘The Tea Shop’ – by Sangeetha Kottillil

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[Written by Sangeetha Kottillil (NALSAR 2015), this piece tells you a short story in a very mellifluous manner. Make sure you leave your thoughts behind once you’re done reading it (Use the comments’ section below)]

The day always began early for Narayanan. By 6 in the morning, he would be at his teashop near the bus stand busy cleaning up the place and boiling milk for the early customers etc. Since his teashop was located next to a bus stand in a village, his shop was always filled with customers. The smell of parippavada, fish fry and egg curry perpetually hung around the place. Today he stood behind the stove brewing his famous masala tea, while his friend, Appu, the local toddy tapper was reading the newspaper aloud. The other customers would interrupt the news reader from time to time between mouthfuls of puttu and appam to pass comments on the politics of the State or to ask for more food. “The Communists are  in for trouble . Unless they root out corruption, they need not even dream coming back to power”, Appu said. Unni, the leader of the Communist Party’s local Youth Wing replied,” But of course, the Congress is known for its commitment against corruption isn’t it? Before telling everyone else to root out corruption, why don’t they try rooting it out where they can? Clean up your backyard before you complain about your neighbour’s.” As usual, a war of words broke out between Appu and Unni. In the commotion only Narayanan noticed a girl walking hesitatingly into his shop. She was carrying a bag on her shoulder and seemed unsure of what to do. She walked upto Narayanan and asked “When does the bus to Kochi arrive?” “In a few minutes. Sit down, do you want tea or anything?” The girl nodded and sat down. Narayanan gave her some tea and sat down. They started talking, but Narayanan noticed the girl kept shooting anxious looks outside the window. “Waiting for someone?” he asked. The girl looked at the fatherly figure in front of her. Was there any harm in confiding?

She leaned forward and whispered,” I am waiting for Ananthan. Actually , we are in love and my parents disapprove of it, so we are eloping. He said he would be here by 5 pm. I am a little nervous.” Narayanan was taken aback by this candid confession, but these words took him back three decades. Three decades ago, when he too had loved. Rachel, who belonged to an orthodox Christian family. He would stand outside her home early in the meaning and talk to her through the gaps in the fence, when she came to hang her clothes to dry. The secret smiles which passed between them when they met on the road or while crossing the fields. But when her parents arranged her marriage with a Christian man from the next village, Rachel had come to him crying. But he couldn’t defy their parents and get married. He had elderly parents to look after, he was struggling for a job, he couldn’t run away, leaving his parents to fend for themselves. If he had married in the village, the entire family would be treated as outcasts. He had gently dissuaded Rachel from going against her parents and she had got married to the man with whom her marriage had been fixed.. But he would never be able to forget her tears, her heart wrenching smile of forgiveness.

Narayanan looked at the girl and said,” Do it, child. It’s your life and it’s yours to live. No one else should dictate what you want to do or who you want to live with. I did not do so and I regret it each day of my life. Go and live happily.” The girl smiled. She looked out of the window and her face lit up. “Ananthan is here!” she said happily and got up. The tall, handsome man entered the shop and took her bag. “Come, let’s go.” he said. She gave Narayanan, a grateful smile and boarded the bus with the man. Narayanan looked till the bus went out of sight and muttered a silent blessing.

A month passed. The teashop was crowded with customers. Appu, was as usual, reading the paper out aloud,” Another sex racket busted!” “Let me see,” Narayanan said and took the paper. It was a report giving out details of a prostitution racket which had been busted by the police the previous night. The organizers had been arrested and the women sent to a Protection Home. The photos of the organizers had been published too. Narayanan ran his eyes along the photos till he suddenly stopped. His look of disgust changed to horror when his eyes stopped at one of the photos. The photo of a tall handsome man. Appu couldn’t understand. No one in the shop could or would be able to. After all only Narayanan would be able to recognize Ananthan’s photograph.

Sangeetha Kottillil
Batch of 2015
NALSAR University of Law

29 COMMENTS

  1. Very well written. It seems like a nice story, and then you come to the end and it turns brilliant. So many layers! 

    • Yes at first even I was wondering what a love story was doing here in clatgyan until I came to the climax! good ending.

  2. speechless………………at one time we want sumone at other this happens………..today hw to trust anyone……….not being senti jst gets confused after reading dis………….

    • you have a point girl…………….. bt just ignore this flaw……. and look at the beauty. and the fact shared…………….
      amazing work Sangeetha Kottillil

  3. well whether we  romantics living in an illusion like it or not, this is the reality.Of course there are always the exceptions.

  4. Clearly this article has struck a chord! Now-a-days we come across such incidents every second day but we we just shrug our shoulders and move ahead as if we missed it!! Kudos to the author for pointing out to this stark reality of life and conveying it in such modest words!

  5. okay,,, its definitely well written……….
    but dres a positive side too, people may not always “fall” in love’ they can also rise in love!!!!

  6. Sangeetha , Kudos to you !!! …….I love your simple language and the flow of the deeply moving, refreshing story …… I liked Narayanan’s memories …..a flash back ……..and the ending …….. in true O’Henry style …..with a twist !! Wow ! This is the first article that I am reading !! Keep writing !!

  7. This comes in a tad bit late but I couldn’t resist not commenting on your story, Sangeetha K.
    I personally like those stories which turn into a movie in my mind and yours is definitely on the list. The way you have managed to deceive the readers with the hope of a happy ending is laudable.

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