As evening was descending fast upon the hills on a late December Saturday, me and my friend were dragging our cycles through the steep inclines of Rohini. Though our initial target was to make it till Kurseong, the chances were seemingly bleak as we were late by almost three hours. We tried our luck to stay at Rohini but didn't get any option there. Tired, hungry and confused, we stood in the middle of nowhere as the cars were swooshing past us with their glaring headlights on. To add to our woes was the biting cold wind. Left with any other option, we gathered all our little left energy and started pulling our cycles when I noticed this tiny shack selling tea and food, almost on the verge of getting closed for that day. We approached the shopkeeper and requested them to allow us to spend that night in their shop. Realizing that we were in some trouble, he agreed readily and opened their small room for us that was down the stairs. We came to know that his name was Badal who, along with his brother Praveen runs the tea shop. We were offered tea and some food which helped us regain our energy, at least, to some extent. The rest of the evening was spent in idyllic chitchats and not even for a moment we felt we had known them barely for an hour or so. Incidentally, their shop was the last one in that stretch. Soon it was the time for dinner and we got the hospitality that probably our very close relatives fail to offer.
Next day it was time to move on to our next stop, Darjeeling. We had our breakfast and bade farewell to them. We people from the cities always tend to assess everything on a monetary yardstick and when we went on to offer them, they readily refused. I realized, they might be living their livelihood on the meagre earnings from their tea shack, but that didn't diminish their generosity or affection. Though for too short a time, it was an overwhelming meeting and I felt a deep sense of bonding with them. It is people like Badal and Praveen who give us just another reason to visit those places again and again. I just wish they are doing great, with their hearts sculpted by the broadness of the mountains.
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