What all must be happening at home today, at this moment….I often get caught up in these thoughts. I see sun rays, warm and yellow, filtering through the branches of a swaying tree, and as I look up, the blue of the sky smiles at me through the moving leaves. The tree rooted next to my dad’s workplace, beneath which I’ve seen him wait for me after school through the years of childhood, beneath which chai and charcha has flowed and will be flowing for as long as the tree will stand, has all my thoughtful attention.
I think about my dad, who works hard to excel in his profession. He is a lawyer. Every evening after dinner, he sits at his desk with a table lamp, a pencil and flips gracefully through one of the 60+ leather-bound books. That picture of him has not changed over all these years. If you’ve grown in a house with a lawyer, you would have judged the law books by their cover at all times. They are truly intimidating, also by their sheer thickness. The Indian Penal Code (IPC), The Indian Constitution, and similar authoritarian names really take your fears of breaking the law as a kid to a much higher level.
He once took me to the oldest man sitting with a typewriter at the district court compound and asked him to type some pages. This man, who looked quite old, had surprisingly swift fingers. His wrinkly face and the red tilak both lit up bright at that. Then began their conversation of which I was not a part. Dad told me how the old man had been working for his entire life typewriting for a low rate. Every now and then, the old man looked up and smiled, yet his eyes and hands were in an absolute rapt with one another.
The clink clank of the typewriter had a retro appeal. Dad ordered two glasses of tea, left me out. The old man finished writing, and then dad sat down on the steps next to him. There were no chairs. The old man had a one-table makeshift arrangement. I stood there looking around and pretending to escape the conversation. I heard the rustle of the dry leaves. I saw monkeys jumping on the roofs. I saw people spit the red of the paan. The bubbling chai was a sign of permanence, of normalcy, and content. It was just another afternoon on that campus. I was just another passerby.
Dad gave an extra currency note than what the old man asked for his service. With great patience, my dad later corrected for the typos in print, unlike his usual impatience. This is what keeps small towners going, the art of uplifting each other through small acts of humanity. And then there is chai pe charcha at every nook and corner while a young mind learns a small lesson of charity every now and then.