‘Amra ki cha khabo na? Cha khabo na amra? (Will we not have tea?)”. Before March 22, 2020, Mridul Kanti Dev had no idea that this simple question would change his life so much. The daily wage labourer from Jadavpur, who was filmed having a cup of tea at a road-side stall during the ‘janata curfew’ on March 22, became the face of lockdown memes in the city after his muted plea to have tea spawned thousands of videos on social media.
Initially trolled on social media, Dev has now found support from citizens. Although both the state and central governments have been urging people to stay indoors during the lockdown to prevent spread of the novel coronavirus, Dev’s empathetic neighbours ended up inviting him over to their houses for tea. There they also introduced the fifty-something Dev to the world of social media, where he has become famous.
His son Ajit, who had to drop out and start working to support the family, made an impassioned plea to netizens to come forward to help his father instead of trolling him. Till Wednesday evening, several people had donated money to Dev’s bank account.
Dev works at construction sites assisting masons and does not own a smartphone and has no social media accounts. “On the day of the ‘janata curfew’, I went to a tea stall in Sree Colony Bazar before going to a construction site to work. While I was having tea, a woman came up to us and demanded to know why we were there when there was a curfew all over the country. I just asked her if we could’t have tea. She filmed the interaction on her mobile phone. That very evening, my son showed me that my pictures were all over social media. Some people had even added music in the background. I got very scared,” said Dev.
Ajit said he was very sad, angry and scared at the same time after seeing his father go viral on social media. “It was very painful, but it was not possible for me to do anything,” he said.
Some of the neighbours then invited Dev to their houses for cups of tea and made Facebook videos. “He is a very simple and needy person. He may have not done the right thing by going out during the ‘janata curfew’, but some people went overboard making fun of him on social media. I request everyone to come forward and help him instead,” said one of Dev’s neighbours.
Source: Times of India