“Hungry kya?” Ashu asked peeping out from her cubicle. As though it was some sort of a cue, the whole gang burst out laughing. She knew perfectly well why we were laughing yet she asked, “Whaaaaattt?” just to indulge her friends. They were crazy and that was probably the reason she loved us all the more.
“Nothing, its just that you are always hungry” Mia said putting her hand on her friend’s shoulder who suffered a curious case of perpetual hunger.
“Let’s go get some chai and vada paav from the tapri“ Rahul chipped in getting up from his seat and locking his PC.
Together the six friends strode out of their office and headed towards the roadside tea shop.
We had been working together for almost three years now and had bonded well from the first day we met. Three years passed like a breeze and over time we had almost become inseparable. Our group was envied by the other teams in the office for being the life of the party wherever we went.
The tea stall was teeming with its usual customers, most of them employees of the various IT firms that were operational in the business park. The vada paavs, samosas and bhajiyas were selling off real quick offering some kind of salvation to the taste buds that were ill-fated to get accustomed to the bland tea from the vending machines and the tasteless food from the hostels.
“Bhayya, che chai aur vada paav“ not the one to be wasting any time Ashu demanded their usual fare.
Guffawing over office gossip and boss-bashing they were having a whale of a time when they saw a few of the guys from the neighbouring office trying to beat up a ragamuffin. Not wasting a chance to be the hero, Rahul went up to the group and asked them what the issue was. The tapri-wallah told him that the kid was trying to steal a handful of vadas and run away. It was obvious to the people who watched that the kid was obviously hungry and that there was no way he could pay for what he wanted to eat. The otherwise quiet Sunil offered to pay the money on behalf of the little kid and asked him if he wanted anything more. The kid quietly shook his head saying, “Nahi saheb… Shu… shu…..shukriya saheb.”
Then Sunil did something that surprised us all. The quiet, reserved fellow gave the kid a hug and said, “The next time you are hungry, ask them and they will give you food. Don’t worry about the money, I will look after it.”
He was always the mysterious guy in the group and it always felt like there was something about Sunil that none of us could decode. When Rahul walked up to him and hugged him, he told us, “You have no clue what hunger can do to you. Hunger makes you act in strange ways.”
That was the first time we saw tears in his eyes.
Vada-paav:a popular spicy vegetarian fast food dish native to the Indian state of Maharashtra.
Tapri:Â generally located on the corner of streets and generally known as katta or tapri, they sell cigarettes, tobacco, and tea.
Bhayya, che chai aur vada paav: Brother, 6 teas and vada-paavs