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Sharmili Mallick

The Covid-19 pandemic and consequent curbs like lockdown have left thousands of people jobless. Many have been forced to change their profession and take up odd jobs to earn a livelihood. 

In the process, as unorganised sector and labour class took the hit, a similar crisis struck the family of an 11-year-old boy Umashankar Choudhary. 

Dipu as he is now fondly known across the alleys of the Millennium city lives with his family in Jaunliapatty area of Cuttack. He is a student of Class 5 in Municipal Model High School in Choudhury Bazar.

Cladding a half-jacket and riding a cycle laden with a bag containing a thermos kettle full of hot tea and paper cups, Dipu comes out of his house every morning and evening to sell tea in the nooks and corners of the city.

He even takes orders through his mobile phone to supply tea in several offices and business establishments.

Dipu's tale which makes it a case of child labour has however not discouraged him from supporting his family from such a tender age. 

“I am not ashamed of selling tea because my conscience is clear. I am not stealing anything so why shall I feel humiliated. People say that it is a petty profession but the business helps me run my family. Therefore, I am proud of it and though it’s a tiring job, I believe that hard work will someday pay off,” said the little boy.

The residents of Cuttack also wait in queue for their turn to savour Dipu’s special tea and do not miss the chance to meet this young and strong character. 

Ananda Sharma, a local resident said, “People are giving diverse comments on the little tea seller but they should know Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi was also a tea seller once. Dipu's story should inspire many because, at such a tender age, he has taken the burden of his family into his shoulders.”

Dipu’s father, Suresh Choudhary was running a tea stall at Keuta Sahi in Choudhury Bazar of the city for the past 50 years. But after the imposition of lockdown last year, Suresh had to close his tea shop which pushed the family to a severe financial crisis.

Following this, little Dipu took the matter into his own hands and started selling tea visiting different places on his bicycle to support his family and to ensure he continues with his online classes.

(Edited By Suryakant Jena)

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