The day I earned my tea

This incident took place during my first trek with YHAI two years back in 2006. The trekking route is now called 'Sar pass trail' but is quite close to the 'Yankar pass' trail that I had taken. The base camp was at a picturesque site at Kasol, which is a little away from Kullu, yet well connected. Its easy to spot most of the YHAI camps for first timers too, as most of the locals know about it and the big yellow banner is hard to miss. Besides, the campsites are located near the main road and if you tell the bus driver that you are a YHAI participant he will drop you just outside the site.

On the first day, the trek covered the Malana-Kiksa dam and the camp site for the day was located just a little beyond Malana. I am afraid I have forgotten some details now but one incident remains embedded deeply for reasons that will be obvious at the end of this post.

If you are a trekker, you will be aware of the number of small 'tapris' (Small temporary shelters) that offer water, 'maggi' noodles, biscuits and tea to trekkers at reasonable rates along the trails. Even I - generally averse to instant noodles - enjoy maggi at these places.

Bhimsingh was a 11year old boy who was ran one such 'tapri' on way to Malana Village. We were a group of nearly 30 hungry people caught in a light shower near his tapri. Obviously we all needed something hot to refresh ourselves and everyone started demanding tea and noodles. He was alone and yet trying to satisfy us with just two small kesrosene stoves. I was in awe with the professsionalism displayed by the little boy - no complaints and no mumblings! He went around and asked the number of 'chais' and 'noodles' required and quickly decided the water needed for the noodles. Just out of admiration for him, I offered to make the tea while he was chopping onions and attending to the noodles. He nodded his agreement and instructed me not to use more than 4 or 5 tsps. of Nestle's dairy whitener for the tea (nearly 25 cups). Another instruction - 'Ek cup mutlab poora nahi, aadhe se thoda zyaada' (One cup of tea means just a little over half cup, not full).

The tea was made and served. When the noodles was eaten, I collected 'Rs.4/-' from each person for the tea, included my amount, and gave him the sum.

Bhimsingh took the money and gave me back Rs.4/-. He said - "Aapka nahin chahiye...aapne kaam kiya." ("I don't want your worked for it.")

Earlier I was awed by the boy's enterprise....his last reply stumped me! I had never before and have never since experienced the exhilaration of earning. The boy taught me a few lessons....I don't need to put them in I?