Portraits From The Street: Bhubaneswar – The Story of Anna Bhaina
Prakash Subuddhi, or ‘Anna Bhaina’ as he is affectionately known by the myriad denizens of Sahid Nagar, is one in a million! His non-descript shop, tucked away beside the HDFC Bank, probably doesn’t speak about the number of people he’s influenced over the years, in the fifteen years that he’s been managing this shop.
He and his son ‘Vento’ (as he’s affectionately known) together manage the Dhabaleswar Tea Stall, which has been a landmark of the locale since 1967. Prakash who hails from Berhampur, took over the business from his father after completing his graduation from Utkal University.
This genial man’s shop sees a footfall of about 300 to 400 on a good day. All sorts of people throng his shop, coaching centre students and their tutors, professionals from the nearby bank, looking for snacks or a smoke. The atmosphere at his shop is lively and conversations flow freely.
While Prakash himself doesn’t tell about his interactions with people coming to his shop, his customers tell tales of plenty of people who have been helped by Anna Bhaina’s pep-talks.
“Anna Bhaina and his food are magic.” One student exclaims. “This has always been the go-to place for khatti. We always come here to feel at ease when we feel the pressure’s gotten too much. He is always ready to offer advice. Any day, any time.”
“Except Sundays. We’re closed on Sundays!” comes a sound from the inside of shop, to general laughter, where his son is preparing tea for us.
Observing the man, I realise that this attribute of his is actually ingrained in him. It just comes naturally to him, listening to people’s woes and offering guidance. Many a person has benefitted from this.
As I leave this small establishment with a full belly and a merry mood, it occurs to me just how soothing the atmosphere is. The father and son duo are not just business men, they are true samaritans in every sense of the word. Inspite of living in times, when people do not have time for each other and rarely confide due to fear of judgement – Anna Bhai has been giving away something highly precious for free, his attention and compassion!
The sumptuous food and Anna Bhai’s cheerful smile make Dhabaleswar Tiffin, a little jewel tucked within the by lanes of Sahid Nagar.
I learnt that a friendly ear and a cheerful disposition, is enough to make others feel better.
About the Initiative – Portraits from the Street
When we started documenting Odisha for it’s remarkable stories – we looked for the obvious – places to eat, monuments, places to shop etc. Over time, we felt compelled to document and share real stories that make a city what it is – its people and create an exhaustive catalogue of smaller towns and people living there.
Portraits from the street is an attempt to get you unheard of stories from people’s lives and give a sneak-peek behind the endless tales etched on faces. It’s an effort to document real people, real struggle, real wins and some incomprehensible losses. Who knows what might end up inspiring us or even better, changing us altogether.
[Photo Courtesy: Subhojit Hazra]