My sister and I went on to live with my uncle. Soon after, I got a job at a dhaba near Panipat. Bhuli stayed back. She started going to school. It weighted on me that I never thanked that Army Officer. I hoped that one day I would run into him again. Every time I saw an army man, I would hope it was him. For months I would search for his face in every crowd. And one day, I did find him.

     It was late on a winter’s night. A truck stopped at the shop. A man got out. He looked familiar. When he stepped into the light, I saw that it was not him, just someone who bore a strong resemblance. The man was tired. He asked for a cup of tea. As I served him, Sir, I felt this strange lightness. This sense of joy. When the man offered to pay, I did not take the money. The next day, it happened again. Every day, I would see someone, a complete stranger, a tired traveller, who reminded me of that officer. It was as if he was everywhere. And every time I served him tea, I felt a surge of sheer joy.

     A month later, I quit my job at the shop and returned to those mountains. The shop owner was quite relieved. He had no use for a waiter who kept forgetting to present the bill to the customer. Now I am on my own. And I am at peace.

     Here is your bus, Sir. No, no money… you were tired. All I offered you was a cup of tea. Maybe it was the best tea in all Garhwal. Maybe not. But I am happy I could do you this small service. Wish you a safe journey, Sir. May God be with you!
Brij and his sister went to Pauri to live with their uncle. Then Brij got a job in a small food stall near Panipat. Bhuli started going to school. Brij was always guilty that he had not thanked the Army officer. He was constantly searching for the officer in every crowd; every time he saw an army man, he hoped it would be him. Brij found him, one day.
J Earthquake.jpg
*A dhaba is a small roadside store!
It was a cold night and it was late. A truck stopped at the shop where Brij worked. Someone got out and he looked familiar. But when he came into light, Brij realized it was not the army officer but someone who looked like him. That man was tired and he asked for tea. When Brij served him tea, he started feeling light as if he had served the army officer himself. He did not take money from that man. It continued every day. He met a complete stranger to whom he offered tea for free and he felt utter happiness in it. He saw the army officer in everybody that he met.
He quit the job after a month and returned to the mountains. The shop owner where he worked, was happy to let him go because he was a forgetful waiter who forgot to charge a customer every day! Now Brij had his own shop and he felt peaceful.
Returning to the present, Brij refused to take money from the traveller to whom he had given tea. He said to the traveller that he appeared tired and all he gave him was a cup of tea. He said the tea might have been good or bad, but he was happy about the small help that he could do. He wished him a safe journey and prayed that God be with him.
Meanings of difficult words:
a roadside food stall
State Council of Educational Research and Training (2019). Term-2 English Standard-9. Earthquake - Mr. M.S. Mahadevan (pp. 154-160). Published by the Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation.
*Image courtesy: Murgermari /