By Mayura Choudhari
Vikas with his father Mr. Krushnarao Tatad at their tea stall
Chaiwala and Nationalism are the most debatable and pretty much controversial topics in India since few years. And both the concepts are hugely celebrated much more than anything else. As the world for the very first time celebrating International Tea day and everybody is coming up with their Tea special moments, statistical data of Tea Business, its origin and history, its growth, etc. In India it could be an exiting "mai bhi chaiwala campaign".
In this article we would be talking of the same concepts but with the "other" narrative, with an off-stream discourse. Let us not focus on What a chaiwala could do to the country or what he has done so far. Let us introduce you to the real hero through this article, A 'chaiwala' who's son today got selected for Admission in Columbia University. What could be a better news to get on this international tea day for this man.
Mr. Krushnarao Tatad, belonging to a remote village Tiwara of Amravati city in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, is sincerely running a small tea stall since almost more than 25 years. We won't call him just a chaiwala because he is much more than that. He is very respected and a known personality for his contribution to the society. Running a tea stall and dedicating his life to the social movement through various activities is what one can see him doing his whole life.
Mr. Krushnarao Tatad
He believes in the concept of pay back to the society and thus inculcates the same in his three children. Following the motto of Educate, Agitate and Organise even if he himself couldn't get much educated as due to economic issues he could only study till HSC while working in a Hotel for 10 rs per day, he taught his children the value of higher academic and moral education. He never took a leave from his tea stall, even day or night, summer or rain, diwali or holi, he just never kept the stall closed so as to save money for his children's education. When he came to settle down in Amravati he didn't had any home, so he along with his wife tied tent out of a saari on an empty land and started living there. Adjusted with everything but never ever compromised for children's education and thus admitted their first girl child to english medium school and later made her engineer.
He shifted the Tea stall besides the court in Amravati and here got introduced to a lot of Bahujan activist and thus started his journey of activism. He worked for Slum development. Introduced Ramai Awaas Yojana and successfully helped in its implementation and as a result more than 100 people got their own homes through this scheme. Later he worked for solutions on many other issues faced by the people living in slums like, ration issues, water issues, building hospital or schools in the area. His wife Rekha Tatad started sewing clothes and supported her partner in every situation of life. She being a strong pillar, he could work for his children and the society as well.
The elder daughter Sheetal told us that she remembers her father's two most important sayings,
“kelyane hote, adhi tu te kele tar pahije”
meaning, “It will be done, you must do it first” and
“ya duniyet kontich gosht ashakya nahi, tumhi jidd kara ani chikati thewa, ti tumhala milnarch”
meaning “There is nothing impossible in this world, you must be determined about it and work hard, you will surely get it.”
Sheetal is currently working with an NGO in Mumbai, she told her father supported her decision of shifting to social sciences after engineering as he was only concerned about his children's education in whatever they are interested in. She did her Masters from Tata Institute of social sciences in Women's Studies. She says, she learnt the guts from her father to stay alone in a new city, away from family. Before placement in Mumbai she was taking free tuitions for children from her basti to groom them and make them confident to face the world.
Sheetal came to TISS for masters following her brother Vikas who was actually a year senior to her in the college. He came to TISS in 2016 to pursue MA in Dalit and Tribal studies and action. He was motivated and mentored by Vishal Thakare, who also comes from Amaravati, studied in TISS, got higher education at Berlin School of Economics and Law and now working as a visiting faculty at TISS.
Vikas has been working in the field of education since 2 years and did evaluation of more than 30 schools under government of Goa and around 36 schools throughout India. Currently he is working as State campaigner with Parisar, a Pune based NGO.
The youngest son Vipin, pursuing his final year in Mass Communication and is a Rapper. It would be a little strange to know how come this younger brother chose a total different line while two siblings are in social sector. Vipin has recently become very popular as a rapper of resistance along with his friends forming a group called Rap Toli. Unlike other rappers in the popular culture, specially Bollywood and other rappers who have their sexist, castiest, racist, classist lyrics; rap videos Vipin makes concentrate for social change.
Vikas is taking forward his father's legacy by running a media platform named Blue Morning to which his father once registered some 10 years ago. He successfully did journalistic investigations in Amravati city through Blue Morning. In this Lockdown period, till now, Vikas has conducted 23 live panel discussion sessions on various important topics through Blue Morning. Tatad family currently resides in Siddharth Nagar slum in Amravati where they started Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Research and Study Centre and sunday Vihar program for moral education.
During his MA at TISS, in 2018 he went to University of Massachusetts Amherst for an International Conference on Caste and Race organised in collaboration with Boston Study group. There he presented a paper on the topic Social Media and Dalit assertion co-authored with fellow student in TISS Harshali Nagarale. During his stay in United States, he visited the University of Columbia and was constantly thinking to take admission there someday. And yes, as his father told, “you just be determined and nothing is impossible”, Vikas got selected for MA in Sociology and Education in the same Columbia university where his ideal of life Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar once studied. It is like not just dreaming but putting efforts to make it happen.
When we asked Vikas's father Krushanrao on how will he manage the fund for his sons studies, he unreluctantly told us, “I'll do anything, work day- night, sell ornaments, mortgage his home or whatsoever possible ”.
Vikas says his only hope is scholarship provided by government of Maharashtra he is applying for. But he looks firmly determined to go even if it is delayed or caught up in red tape bureaucracies.
This whole story of a common tea stall runner I could see how he raised his children to become good citizens and work for the society and thus for the nation. We must celebrate such true nationalists.
Mayura Choudhari is a Co-founder of The Colourboard