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A sweet and heart-warming tale of kindness and humility. After losing his everything in a tragic earthquake, this young boy finds a rather remarkable way of thanking a stranger who once helped him.
Brij from Molthi
The chapter begins with a tea seller greeting a tired and cold traveller. He assumes the traveller is perhaps a pilgrim waiting for a bus to Badrinath, or is visiting the Valley of Flowers, Uttarakhand. The tea-seller does not mind who the traveller is and invites him to his tea stall which is close-by. He tells the traveller that while he prepares the best tea in Garhwal, the traveller can warm himself. The seller is confident that his tea will refresh the traveller.
The tea shop is a very small, modest shop with a shaky bench, but it will hold the traveller’s weight. The tea-seller is a very chatty person and continues to introduce himself. He tells his name is Brij and he is 17-years-old. Brij used to work at a roadside shop outside Panipat but the heat, pollution and crowd became unbearable so he saved money and came back to open his own shop. It has been two years since he opened this shop. It appears as though the traveller has also engaged in conversation and asked about Brij’s village.
Brij reveals that he was from a village called Molthi. Four years ago, one fateful October night, an earthquake seized the Himalayan valley. Although the villagers were accustomed to tremors, this was no ordinary tremor. There were six hundred and seventy villages in the valley, the 5 minutes long earthquake destroyed six hundred and two of them. Hundreds of lives were lost and homes were turned into nothing but rubble.
As luck had it, Brij was not in Molthi that night. He had gone to Pauri, to buy school books and was staying at his uncle’s place. Pauri too felt the heavy tremors throughout the night, but survived them, unlike Molthi.
The Rescue Mission
Those who survived, were burdened with what they witnessed the following morning. Everything was destroyed, all their homes and villages flattened. The army rescue teams worked tirelessly to make path to reach the villages. Four days later, Molthi was able to receive help. Brij and his uncle were among the first to reach the village. Brij recalls that day, even after knowing about the calamity, he said that nothing had prepared him for the sight he saw.
His house, the same 2 storeyed house that his great grandfather had built was gone. He shares about his family, fourteen months ago his father passed away after an illness. His mother looked after the family. He had a 10-years-old brother, Nilu and his 2-years-old baby sister Bhuli. He was the eldest. His grandmother too lived with them.
His uncle led him away when the soldiers began clearing the debris. He was too dazed to comprehend everything and lost track of time. Day turned into evening and he was asked to perform the cremation rituals. He couldn’t come to terms with the fact that they were indeed gone. He still remembered their smiling faces, the last time he saw them waving him goodbye. Then, it struck him, Bhuli? Where was his baby sister?
He ran back to their house, or what was now left of it. He searched and cried for Bhuli. He was crying when a voice spoke. It was an Army officer, he was the relief supervisor. The officer told him that there was no one here now. Brij explained that he was looking for his sister to give her a proper cremation. Brij knew, what he was asking for was difficult. He could see how tired the officer was. The officer looked like he had not slept for days, his uniform dirty and face dusty, but Brij found his eyes kind.
The officer explained that his men had been working for days now and had rescued everyone they could, this was just a stop for them and they had many more villages to aid. While the rows of pyres burned, Brij laid on the ruins of his house and cried. A few minutes later three officers along with the supervisor came and started shovelling the debris, they worked throughout the night with lamps.
Two hours passed and then, in the middle of a hollow they found Bhuli. She was alive. It was a miracle. She had been buried under the debris for a hundred and sixteen hours. She survived the earthquake, the cold nights and the wild animals. A soldier wrapped her in a warm blanket and took her to the makeshift hospital.
The next day when Brij went to thank the officer, he found that the officer had left. Without the officer’s name or address, Brij only hoped that someday fate would make them meet again. Their lives turned somewhat normal again. Brij would try to find the officer in every army man he saw. One day he found him.
It was a late winter night and a truck stopped at the shop Brij worked at. A familiar looking man stepped out. However, on looking closely Brij realised he was not the officer. The tired man ordered a cup of tea and when Brij served him the tea, he felt a sense of lightness and joy. Brij did not accept money from the man.
The next day too, the same thing happened. It became a routine for Brij. Everyday he would meet a tired traveller who reminded him of the officer, and every time he served them tea, he felt joyous. He never let them pay.
A month later Brij quit his job and started his own tea shop to continue his purpose. He says that he is very peaceful now. Brij does not let the traveller pay for the cup of tea. The traveller’s bus arrives and Brij bids him farewell and wishes him a safe journey.
Brij came from a very humble family and yet he had a very rich heart. Many of us don’t thank our near and dear ones, and this guy went to great lengths to express his gratitude to a complete stranger. Although unable to find the officer, Brij did not give up, instead he started a new mission, to pass on kindness. Brij did not just serve a cup of tea, it was a cup of kindness.