They are the inconspicuous cogs that keep the IIT-M machine well-oiled and running (well fed, in this case). Without them, insti would be a much poorer place. Yet, too often, we don’t notice them or acknowledge their role in insti life. Given their unique vantage point, they have stories to tell – stories that give us a different perspective. We believe those are stories worth hearing and worth telling. Because, after all, stories are what make us human.The better you know people, the better you appreciate the work they do. It is for this purpose the people of insti– the people who make insti the amazing and advantaged space it is – are highlighted. The answers and stories we get from them never fail to surprise us with their profundity.
(All the articles in this series can be found here.)
Rare are people who don’t visit Ramu Tea Stall in the new SFC when around the area. Be there before 7pm and you would find a lady managing the often busy store with an impressive ease. A “human of insti” for a year and a half now, T5E attempts to sketch the story of the familiar face.
Please tell us about yourself.
I am Satyavathi, aged 33. I was born and brought up in Chennai but my family is from Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh. I studied till 8th standard in Telugu medium. My husband is Lakshman, who was a driver in Adyar till about three years ago. After that, he underwent a surgery for L4 and L5 damage and he had to stop working. While he occasionally does odd jobs, it is my income of Rs.7000 per month that sustains our family of four. My elder daughter is studying in eleventh grade in the city and my son is studying in seventh grade in Kendriya Vidyalaya school on campus.
She was rather surprised that we would want to know her better. She initially assumed it will be a quick interview of the sort of a poll and asked us to fire away. Finding a time when she can actually sit down and we can talk took a little effort.
The owner of the two Ramu Tea Stalls is my husband’s friend. I only work here. I started working here because it was a girl’s canteen to start with. If not for Ramu Tea stall, I would not have taken up a job.
How were you affected by the floods? What is the effect of the shift from Vindhya on business?
During the floods, we incurred a loss of Rs.30,000-40,000. But within two days, we started distributing biscuits and snacks to the students and also outside institute. We also brought milk for the students.
For us at least, it was a bad move shifting to Girls SFC from Vindhya. Previously,daily income used to be about Rs.10,000 now it dropped to Rs.6,000. Not many people come here now. And importantly, some close and friendly girls who used to come here regularly seldom do now. And it is a very small space. I can just about stand inside the shop along with one assistant for it to become cramped.
How are the students who come here?
I like the students here. They are all very nice and polite. And then there are ones who keep joking. Often someone or the other would forget to carry money. I never mind when they pay me on credit. I sometimes forget who owed me how much. But they always pay back sooner or later. They even apologize about it. I would not do it for outsiders but it is after all our students. But isn’t this shop meant for the students?
“She is so collected”, says one regular customer of the shop, “In the peak hours, when the place is overcrowded and when orders come from different directions seemingly all at once, she deftly deals with all of them. I would crack within a minute of standing behind that table! ”
We ask her the familiar HoI question: Any advice to the students?
Nothing much to say, the students are very good and responsible here. They are not the ones to waste food; most of them don’t throw away what they buy. That’s a good thing. Food is definitely not meant to be wasted. But absorbed with their work as they are, I think they should take better care of their health, what with so many falling sick. And also stay safe. Campus is a scheduled place, but I think they shouldn’t venture outside it too much in the late hours. It is not a place for young people.
Surely, with about hundred customers on a daily basis, she must have at least a few problems on her hands? But she immediately brushes off the question about any complaints that she might have about the students.
We ask her the plans she has for the future. She looked a little puzzled that we would ask her that.
I don’t know what you mean by plans for the future! I am not looking for work elsewhere if that’s what you mean. I am content here and I intend to stay as long as Ramu Tea stall is here.
When asked what her daughter would like to be, she said,“We will try to let her study what she wants to. Except my children growing up, there aren’t all that many changes I expect in my life for the years to come.”