Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Tea-Boy

Jayampathi nodded off on the way home, lulled into sleep by the rocking of the bus as it travelled into the suburbs.

“What is the matter” asked Mala, his wife noticing the look of worry on his face; oh she knew her man so well. “Nothing” he replied, “It’s not a big thing. These new people, it is not easy with them.”

The firm he worked for was a medium size one; it employed more than one hundred people. When it opened, it was very nice with everyone very excited about the future.

Jayampathi worked there as the tea boy, it was his job to make the tea for the people in the office twice a day, it was an important job, everyone missed him when he did not come to work on his off day or when he took leave! Before the morning tea round, his first job was to get breakfast for most of the staff. Some of the staff did not eat before work, and many of them preferred to just buy something; that was his job, to get the breakfast and lunch too later on.

When Mala heard of this she had a good idea. “I can make breakfast for them” she said, “Will they pay?” He asked a few people and they seemed to like the idea – what will you bring they wanted to know. “String hoppers, bread, with pol sambol and parripu hodi or potato.”

Now he sold more than fifteen packets every morning. When it was bread, he used to buy it from the petti kade near his house. The rest, his wife made early morning. The profit was small, but it all added up at the end of the month; every single cent counted today.

But then things changed. The two big bosses in the company were rogues. They stole, cheated the owners, things were very bad for a long time. The owners put their own people in the company, people from their country, people who looked down upon the staff because they thought they were all cheaters like the two boss’s.

It was difficult after that. The two were sacked after sometime. Other people left. A lot of things were taken away; even the cleaning service was stopped. That was when they told Jayanpathi that he did not have enough work, that he would have to do more or… he knew what that meant, he could not afford to lose his job. So he agreed, agreed to do something that he did not want to only because he had to keep his job.

So now, now he had to make the tea, go and bring the lunch, make the tea again, wash all the cups and saucers, even the plates and lunch boxes sometimes because some people did not do that after eating. Twice a week he had to clean all the rooms.

He was tired. The people who were there from the other country ate only from one shop – that was quite far away. They refused to give him fare for the bus, so he had to use the bicycle that was given to run errands. Others in the staff did not eat from that shop so he had to go to different places for them all. It was difficult now, he was always so tired.

Now things were better and it was also worse. The cheats were gone, but now there were people who did not know how to get people to work. They did what they wanted to, they were careless and no one said anything. They did their work because they had to, very few out of love out of a sense of honour. Business was there, but it was done badly and customers were not happy. Every month the staff worried about getting paid on time.

Some people thought that this could not last for very long, that no one would go on putting so much money, like pouring water into a well to keep the company afloat.

But finding a new job was not easy. Jayampathi knew he was lucky. Sarath his friend who worked in another department had to travel for more than 3hrs every day just to come to work. He left his home in the dark, before the sun came out, went home in the dark, a very long time after it had set.

It was good to come home he thought as he stepped in through the door. They lived in a small house, not too far from the city centre. It was a nice neighbourhood, not always quiet, but with people who were there when you needed help. Office cleaners, tri-shaw drivers, security guards, even a few school teachers lived here.

“Duwe” he cried, “Where are you?” Ah, Priyangi, his pride and joy, his life, his daughter. The reason he did what he had to do, for her, for a better future for her.

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