An Obituary of a Tea Shop

The management moved recently to remove all the tea shops in the ship yard where I work. The grapevine and the only reason known for the removal was to reduce the time wasted by engineers in the tea shop. This post is an obituary of one of the tea shops that was shut down.

This happened two weeks ago. The tea shop that I used to frequent almost daily at 10.30 am was shut down. The grapevine spoke that the management had cleared all tea shops from the yard. This was a move, apparently, to reduce the time the engineers wasted here. I speak about the shop – a tin and plywood shack really – that was run by three ladies. The relationship among them was unknown. Their real names are also unknown. One lady was definitely old and the other two were definitely young – perhaps in their twenties.

The central location of the shack meant that it attracted quite a large customer base – contractors, workers and engineers. The shop, in addition to tea also served up samosas, various farsan items, choclates, biscuits, cigarettes and tobbaco.

The shack was a meeting place for engineers from different departments. It was also a meeting place where people at various levels – from workers to engineers and even managers spoke with each other. Enquiring about work – but also about people’s backgrounds. About their families and co-workers and their well being. Here, tea was bought, farsan was had. Many things that cannot be negotiated over email or in official settings were sorted out here. Co-workers and juniors confronted other co-workers and seniors on various things that concerned them – openly. The shack thus served a social function.

The shack also addressed a problem. Our canteen is infrequently open and poorly stocked. The shack provided a solution by offering the aforementioned items at any hour of the working day. The quality of tea was also much better. Many people suggested, in conversations, suggested that the canteen staff be sent as trainees to the tea shack.

I guess at some place in our minds, we knew that the shop would close down. The shop occupied a space where construction of the yard was progressing. It had to be removed for the construction to continue. It was also possibly not following many rules that such an establishment would have had to follow in a town or a city. However, this brief association with the shack proved to be a space where I met with many of my colleagues and my seniors – where we shared a cup of good tea and some idle chatter. Now, with the shop gone, we miss both. The day seems somehow incomplete and the people somewhat restless.

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