“I promise, I will go back to school”

“Ammi has been the sole breadwinner of the family for twelve years now; ever since Abbu suddenly passed away of a heart attack. She started off with chutta kaam and eventually became a bus attendant. She would work odd hours and never took any offs because she wanted to provide for us. She gracefully took on Abbu’s role as well and never let me or my sisters feel his absence.

But she’s very strict about studies. Once when I almost failed in Geography, she was so upset… She sat me down and said, ‘Padhai hi aagey le jayegi!’ She told me that she wants to see me join the AirForce as a Fighter Pilot. Seeing that glee of hope in her eyes, I made that dream my own and started studying very hard. My grades improved and my attendance became 100%.

But to tell you the truth, I also loved going to school. English is my favourite subject. There are so many stories, I never want them to end. And then all my friends are also in school. I miss playing book cricket during recess– the last time we played together was in March. After that we went under lockdown.

It was a very sad time, Didi. Ammi lost her job and then because we couldn’t afford it, I had to drop out of school. One month into the lockdown, we had no money at all, even my piggybank was empty. So, I spoke to the Kirana uncle closeby and he agreed to hire me as his chotu. I made only 100 rupees a day, but at least we didn’t have to go to bed hungry. Few months later, I noticed an uncle running a tapri. I asked him every question under the sun and then decided to start selling tea. Anyway, Ammi often says that my tea makes all her worries melt!

So from the next day itself, I started selling tea in the lanes of Nagpada; paranthe waale uncle was kind enough to give me a corner. I make my tea at his stall and then bring it across the street to serve the shop owners. I work from 1PM to 1:30AM, everyone in the area knows me now; they’re all so nice. But Ammi isn’t very happy–She blames herself. But I don’t understand why–all these years she’s the one who taught us to put family first, so why is it wrong when I’m doing it? Maybe she’s worried that I won’t become a Fighter Pilot. But I promise you Didi, I will go back to school. It’s been so long since I last heard a story or played cricket with my friends.

But until then, I’m happy to be a chaiwala for my family’s sake; after all...my tea does melt every worry. Come Didi, try for yourself!”

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