How about a Cup of Veeramony Chai!

Nalakth Soopy-modified2

It was for a short discussion on the [email protected] project that I went to Education Minister Nalakath Sooppy’s office on that May morning.

”Come by 9 a.m. and we can meet in peace. After that, it will be bedlam all over again,” the Minister had told me over phone the previous day. Now, if you have ever been to the office or residence of any of the Education Ministers, past or present, you would know what the meaning of bedlam is. A crowd of not less than a hundred people, composed of teachers, school managers, political hangouts, parents, students and constituents would be swarming the place every day with petitions and requests for favours, due and undue.

At 9 a.m., the Minister’s office was deserted, save for a lone member of the personal staff. Soon the Minister arrived, accompanied by SCERT Director Prof.Jaleel and we talked for some time on how best to promote [email protected] through Destination Kerala. As I began preparing to leave, Minister Sooppy said:

“No, don’t go. You must have a cup of tea with us.”

He then instructed a member of his personal staff to bring three cups of tea as fast as possible.

We went back to some more talk on [email protected] After about five minutes, I tried to leave, so as to reach the DPI office early to continue the discussions with V.P.Joy, the Director – Public Instruction.

“No, no, wait, tea must be on the way,” the Minister insisted.

Another five minutes, and still no trace of the tea. Yet another attempt from my part to leave; Nalakath Sooppy broke into a wide grin and asked me:

“Have you ever heard of Veeramony tea? It is famous in our place”.

No, I had’t heard of Veeramony chai. And he started narrating the story of that special tea to me.

It seems, up there in Malappuram in north Kerala from where Sooppy hails, there was a businessman by name Veeramony, whom lots of important people would visit for various reasons. Now, this Veeramony is a very generous person, generous with his words, that is. Invariably, to every visitor, he would offer tea, and instruct his assistant to bring the tea at once. Ten to fifteen minutes of waiting, and the visitor turns restless, seeks permission to leave. Veeramony looks at his watch, mutters as to why tea is getting delayed, and lets the visitor go. The same scene is enacted countless times every day, and the understanding between Veeramony and his assistant is that tea should never be served, but only offered. It creates goodwill, and saves money at the same time.

“If you are lucky, you will drink Veeramony chai today”, Sooppy joked at the end of the narration.

I was not that lucky. In a minute, the attendant brought tea and we all had a hearty laugh over the difference between real tea and virtual (meaning Veeramony) tea.

Now I have a suggestion: All Ministers and bureaucrats should at once begin serving Veeramony tea to visitors in their offices and residences. It creates the required goodwill, and helps save a lot of money which can be utilised to promote sterling projects such as [email protected], for the good of our children.