For three decades, Kuttan chettan has been serving black tea for the people in Kozhikode for just Re 1. And the city did not forget the P K Kuttan and came together to honour him on Friday evening.
A vision in white with his silver hair and beard, Kuttan chettan serves black tea with a smile at his stall near Tali Temple in Kozhikode.
Though his friends, relatives and even his wife urged him to increase the price of the tea, Kuttan chettan refused. But that meagre price could be one reason that helped him sustain the one-room shop that he had taken on rent more than 30 years ago.
When Kuttan chettan started the shop in 1983, he sold milk tea for Re 1. However, the demand was for black tea and storing milk only incurred him losses. Then the milk tea was stopped for good.
Even the very inauguration of the shop was a loss.
Way back then kerosene cost just Rs 2 and sugar Rs 3. The inauguration of the shop cost Kuttan chettan Rs 300, and on the inaugural day he only made Rs 149. Back in the 1980s, he had people to help him at the shop. Now, it has become a one-man show. But even today, he starts to prepare tea by 8.30 am. Even when it is time to shut the shop by 12 noon, people continue to flock towards the shop for tea.
He serves up to 150 tea cups every day.
During the initial years, the shop functioned into the evenings. However, Kuttan chettan, tasked with the domestic duty of bringing back his daughter from school, decided to call it a day by noon.
Not just black tea, snacks are also available at the stall. Earlier, he used to make the snacks on his own. However, now he gets them from outside. The rates of the snacks range from Rs 5 to Rs 7.
The shop was shut from July 2018 to January 2019 as Kuttan chettan suffered from heart ailments. He had to undergo treatment at the medical college hospital. But medicines and the care allowed Kuttan chettan to open his stall again.
Now, no problems, Kuttan chettan says with a smile.
A believer, Kuttan chettan begins his day, by remembering god, 'Krishna, Guruvayoorappa...' He then helps wife Dhanalakshmi with domestic duties and then heads to the shop.
From Rajiv Gandhi to Vajpayee
Kuttan chettan has also had chance meetings with several senior political leaders. Before starting the shop, he was an activist with the Seva Dal. During those days, he had visited Delhi for a camp. As the young Kuttan chettan was out walking with just a mundu and the shirt resting on his shoulders, someone stopped him and made him wear the shirt. It was none other than former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who also gave him a friendly advice that 'you would fall sick if you walk in the cold like this.'
Kuttan chettan has also had tea with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, when the veteran BJP leader visited Kozhikode for an RSS meet, long before he became the prime minister.
A frequent visitor to Alakapuri auditorium, Kuttan chettan was once taken to the 'Yakshi' movie by none other than actor Sathyan.
Kuttan chettan's favourite leaders are Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, and leader K Karunakaran.
Hands to help
The Karassery Co-operative Bank has adopted Kuttan chettan and family. During a meet held at the Kuttan chettan's shop on Friday evening, bank chairman N K Abdurahman made the announcement. The bank authorities handed over Rs 1 lakh to fund the education for Kuttan chettan's children. Once the studies are completed, one of his daughters would be given job at the Karassery bank's museum. While Athira is pursuing MSc. at Farook college, Bhadra is a plus-two student.
His house too would be renovated.
However, his wife and children were a bit uneasy about taking the bank's help. But Kuttan chettan said that he considered it to be an honour bestowed on him for his social service.