Tea Times


For some, work is an option. But for the likes of Mangamma, it is a necessity. Come, have some tea at her stall and hear her story.

Where to find her: MVP Double Road

OWNS: Nokia phone

How privileged are we to be able to live in a way that brings us joy. But then there are others who devote every second of their lives just to earn acceptance and love of their families, a place in their homes and hopefully their hearts. Mangamma is one such woman. Running a tea stall along the MVP road, she is there from 6 AM till 8 PM. She never takes a day off, seldom attends family functions and doesn’t go for any movies or visits. Come rain or shine she’s here, sitting under a tree by her stall, providing her customers with tea, samosas, biscuits and other knick-knacks. And a major part of the money she earns goes to her siblings and their families.

‘My siblings are nice’ she says. ‘I have two brothers and four sisters. We were very poor as children.’ Having seen the hard life from up close has given her steely determination. She had to stop her schooling when she was 10 years old, was married at the age of 15 and was thrown into a marital life that included a good-for-nothing and abusive husband. ‘I wanted to leave, but that idea was frowned upon. He later died and I came to my brother’s house.’ Widowed at a tender age and embittered by a bad marital experience she refused to remarry. ‘My siblings often asked me to remarry. But I didn’t listen to them. Maybe I was too stubborn. Perhaps a remarriage would have worked.’ Without a husband or children, Mangamma didn’t want to become a burden on her siblings. After doing odd jobs, she gathered INR 1000 and with the help of her brother in law, started her own tea stall.

Having lived with her brother’s family for many years, she says she spent most of her income on them. ‘I helped them buy two houses, gave them money when they required medical aid and now I am clearing the debt.’ Two years ago, her brother asked her to leave and she now stays with her sister and brother in law who are supportive. ‘They also get me lunch every day.’ Needless to say, most of what she now earns either goes into repaying her loans or sharing the financial responsibilities of this family. Work is thus not an alternative, but a necessity. With many shops located along the MVP double road stretch, her customers are mostly the staff from these stores. Fifteen years down the line and she has developed a bond with them. ‘I have never been duped. They trust me and I trust them, it’s mutual.’

We couldn’t help but ask as to why she would still give money to her family when she could keep it all for herself? Why she never takes a break from work? Is this her escape route? Her answers touch a deeper chord. ‘I work because I don’t want to be remembered as a defaulter. I give my family money because they’re all I have and it’s my duty to do so.’ And what is her desire. Unsurprisingly it isn’t anything lofty, ‘I just want to be able to stay financially independent for as long as I can.’