“I was 12 years old when I was betrothed to my wife. She was 8 at the time, and the daughter of my aunt. Honestly, I don’t think we even realized we were married back then, we were so young. My mother had decided that she wanted the two of us to be together, but sadly, she passed away when I was only 7. To honor her wishes, the two of us were wed. A year after my mother died, my father passed away, and so did my brother.
I began working in a rice mill soon after, to help out with the expenditure around the house. One day as the mason was showing me a leak on a site, I slipped and fell. It was about 30 feet high, and I ended up breaking my leg in two. The pain was unbearable, but not as much as the thought of being incapable of working and supporting my family. They put an iron rod with 20 screws into my leg, and said that I would have to be bedridden until I recovered. The thought of never being able to walk again was extremely daunting. We’ve all been complaining about staying indoors for a month because of COVID.. can you imagine doing it for 2 years, without even knowing what is happening outside the walls of your bedroom? Finally, after years of limping with crutches, 8 years of physiotherapy and a lot of support from my family, I was able to walk again.
After my recovery in 2001, I decided to move to Hyderabad. It was so new and strange for me, the bustling city life. I opened a tiny chai stall, with two packets of cigarettes and a singular flask of chai. Back then, this road would have one car every hour or so, at most. There’s been so much development since then; I’m very grateful as it has increased my business a lot. When I began, my chai cost 2 rupees and now it’s 8 rupees, and there’s so many new brands of cigarettes, as you can see! However, as you know, expenditures also increase; our rent, maintenance and childrens’ fees were getting increasingly difficult to meet. To add to this, I have severe Diabetes for which I need to buy medication and pay for treatment. Despite everything, we were very keen on getting our children educated. We couldn’t afford to study, but we wanted the best life for them. If they are doing well, we will be just fine.
To be able to pay for their education, my wife joined me in the stall, and we started serving tiffin as well. Initially it was just idli and vada, but now we have all kinds of stuff, people seem to love our egg dosa! However, about a year ago, my wife developed a condition that required three surgeries, leaving her too weak to leave the house. Again, we had to take a loan, and as a result my daughter had to quit her studies and stay home. She now takes care of my wife in our house, instead of attending her degree college like we wanted. My wife wants to get her married off since we can’t afford her education, but I am being stubborn and insisting that we find a way for her to do her degree somehow. I don’t want my children ending up like us when they have the potential for a good life.
When the lockdown happened, we were shut for 4 months, and didn’t know when we would reopen. Now that we have, I can see that people are wary, but I don’t think anything can stop people from coming out for their chai and smoke, not even COVID! We’ve been following all the safety protocols, keeping sanitizer available for the customers, and we even got digital payment.
I think all of this is just a part of the ups and downs of life. I know I’m not the only one going through this struggle, so I hope things get better for everybody. God gave us this life; he did not intend for us to give up because of obstacles on the way. There will be several struggles in our life, not just this one, but we just need to keep fighting for a good life, and it will happen.”