A humble mobile teashop may not be a great business in money terms. But if it makes its customers and owners feel happy about it, it has achieved its objective. A touching story by Nipun Varma.
The sun was about to set. Birds kept rushing home, their dark flying figures in perfect contrast with the apricot tinted sky. Oblivious to this artistic masterpiece on the sky-sized canvas high up, people kept running hither and thither, the junction, as usual, stifled by the evening traffic. The streetlights reluctantly flickered into life; their yellow eyes dull and groggy.
As expected, the mobile teashop on rickety wheels appeared at the junction. Flanked by Ranga, its owner and his wife Shyamala, the teashop occupied its usual spot on the side of the road. The tempting aroma of freshly brewed tea and piping hot snacks announced that the teashop was ready to serve its customers. Passing the junction without getting tantalized by the shop’s delicacies was a true test of willpower. And not many were that strong-willed, which was quite obvious from the huddle of people who loitered around the teashop eagerly awaiting their turn to get served.
Though well past their fifties, the couple was quite efficient in handling the crowd.
It had only been a few months since Ranga started the snacks business, but he could recognize most of the faces around. It wasn’t surprising; he had always been good with people.
A smile here, a nod of acknowledgement there and an overall personal touch made sure that every customer enjoyed at least some amount of individual attention. Although totally alien to the theoretical side of building high quality products, customer loyalty and enhanced customer experience, Ranga ran his business in a way that would give any B-school graduate a run for his money. He believed in people more than anything else and treating them well was the least he could do.
Wiping sweat from his forehead, Ranga looked around. The evening felt warmer than usual.
Shyamala was busy brewing tea. Poor lady, he thought. Despite all the struggles, she had been with him through thick and thin, always supportive and ready to take the lead whenever he was down. He still remembered the day when he met her for the first time. She looked timid and fragile, but it was her eyes that got him attracted to her. Her eyes spoke of a rare mix of emotional warmth and fierce determination. Being a people man all his life, he knew right then that she was the perfect partner for him. They had big dreams, but reality was mercilessly harsh, quite different from what they dreamed about. But that wasn’t new for him.
As a kid, he had dreamed of saving the world, saving its people, flying around with his red cape streaming behind him. He pictured himself flying in the sky, saving lives.
It didn’t take long for him to realise that he was a mere mortal, sans any superpower. Growing up, life’s deluge of challenges forcefully brought him down to earth. Instead of flying high, here he was, barely keeping his head above water by running a rickety teashop.
As the evening wore on, the crowd thinned out. As usual, Shyamala packed the remaining snacks carefully while Ranga cleaned the premises before closing the shop.
Once done, they started their journey back, Ranga pushing the cart and Shyamala holding the packet of snacks.
They had to meet their premium customers on their way home – the ones who didn’t have a roof overhead, the ones who couldn’t afford to pay. But for Ranga and Shyamala, the smile of gratitude on their cloudy faces was payment enough.
The couple was home empty handed, but with hearts brimming with joy.
After parking the cart, Ranga followed Shyamala into their hut. Before getting in, he looked up at the sky.
The moon looked lustrous and serene. The stars smiled at him. Ranga closed his eyes. Taken in by the moment, he smiled softly.
True, the red cape was missing, Ranga wasn’t flying high either; but along with his partner, he surely was living his dream.
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