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We can do no great things, only small things with great love. --Mother Teresa

Chai and Love

--by Soma Basu, syndicated from thehindu.com, Feb 15, 2014

R.Sekar is extremely reluctant to even put on a shirt for the photograph. I point out to the hole in his vest. “That’s me,” he says bluntly.

I spot the frown on his face. He doesn’t like talking about himself, his family or the work he does. Extremely reticent, he sticks to his schedule of opening his tea shop on the Ponmeni Narayanan Street in S.S.Colony at 4.30 a.m. sharp and serves the day’s first round of steaming chai to about two-dozen watchmen who do night duty in the area. He runs the shop till 11 p.m. selling over 300 cups of tea, coffee and milk besides biscuits, cakes, laddus, murukkus and other savouries. Communication with customers is restricted to business only.

Yet the Meenakshi Coffee Bar which he runs with his two brothers in S.S.Colony is popular. Not for the knick-knack items it sells. Not even for the hundreds of cups of tea and coffee for which it is known. But for Sekar and his kind heartedness.

Daily morning Esaki, affected by leprosy, comes in a tricycle and stops by the tea shop. Sekar gives him tea in a disposable glass and some biscuits. The two never speak. In fact, they have never exchanged a word, except for once when Sekar asked him his name and age.

Eight years ago when he came the first time, says Sekar, I sensed he wanted to drink tea but did not have the money. “From that day, this appointment has continued uninterrupted,” he says.

If Sekar meets somebody who can not afford something, he reaches out wherever possible. For instance, he was moved by the plight of eight-year-old Sivatharini, diagnosed with blood cancer. Her poor parents cannot arrange nutritious meal for her as advised by the doctor. For the last three years, ever since Sekar was introduced to the little girl by a friend in the locality, he has been supplying milk and fruits to her whenever she is admitted to the hospital for treatment or is recuperating at home.

“I am reminded of my difficult childhood when my parents couldn’t manage even one meal a day for the family. I know what it means to starve and how difficult it is when your basic needs are not met,” he says.

Every Friday he unfailingly sends five litres of milk each along with buns and other savouries to three different Homes for special and orphaned children. The tea shop is 35 years old and is known to every resident of the area. But the silent service Sekar renders is not known to many.

“I am a simple man who wants to do little bit of charity because it gives happiness,” he insists. From days of nothing, Sekar says he has come to a position when he can give no matter how small. “There are so many people with so much money but either do not have the time or the inclination to help. God gives us in his own way and we find our ways to help others,” he says.

Quite regularly a motley group of school students gathers at his shop in the evenings. The children usually come asking for stationery items, notebooks and books. “I make a note of their requirements and get it for them.” Sekar never hands over cash but buys the item a person needs.

During the new academic session every summer, lot of poor parents turn to him for help. The soft-spoken Sekar never turns them down and helps them with the purchase of school bags, uniforms, lunch box, water bottles and any other item.

The earnings from the shop are divided among the three brothers. Sekar doesn’t keep an account of how much of his money he uses to help others.

“I am happy with what I have and can do with even less. I do not need more. What will I do?” he asks. He shows you only have to have a heart to help others


This article originally appeared in The Hindu.   


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