| Bhismadeb (left) drinks tea from a bowl; Debabrata sips his from a glass. Telegraph pictures
Burdwan, June 24: Mealtime means teatime for Bhismadeb Sarkar and Debabrata Dutta.
The brew has been 80-year-old Bhismadeb’s food and drink for the past 22 years, and 62-year-old Debabrata’s for 12. The two tea drinkers don’t know about each other although both live in Burdwan district.
A resident of Daihat in Katwa, about 170 km from Calcutta, Bhismadeb gave up food for ever when wife Krishnarani served lunch half an hour late one afternoon 22 years ago.
The owner of a bicycle repairing shop, Bhismadeb always had his lunch at 1 pm sharp.
“One Sunday, my wife served me lunch at 1.30 pm. She knew how particular I was about being served lunch punctually but still she was late,” he said.
“I became so angry that I threw away the plate of rice, fish and vegetables. I decided to stop eating totally.”
Krishnarani and her sons pleaded with Bhismadeb repeatedly, but he would not touch food. “Call me crazy if you like but since then I have not had anything except tea. I drink 18 to 20 cups daily without milk,” Bhismadeb said, sipping the brew.
His wife still feels sorry for having served lunch late that afternoon in 1985, but Bhismadeb feels fine living only on tea.
His eldest son Manik, a grocer, thinks Bhismadeb is eccentric. “What was wrong with mother serving him lunch late' Such things can happen. I tried so many times to persuade him to eat but he wouldn’t listen.”
A week ago, Bhismadeb was admitted to Katwa sub-divisional hospital with chest infection. He was discharged today.
Debabrata decided tea would be his only food after he was reduced from riches to rags.
The bachelor makes a living washing dishes in a small eatery at Purbasthali bus stand, about 190 km from Calcutta.
Born in a well-off farmer’s family in Nadia’s Kaligunj, he had thought there would never be any need to work. After his father’s death, the school dropout inherited about Rs 8 lakh.
He was in his mid-thirties and thought the money would see him through the rest of his life. In 10 years, the lakhs were gone.
Debabrata came to Purbasthali in Burdwan, 45 km from Kaligunj, and took up the job of washing dishes. His pay: Rs 100 a month and 22 cups of tea every day.
“I don’t like eating ordinary food like rice and vegetables,” Debabrata said. “The hotel owner, Subrata Sit, offered me Rs 100 a month and a lunch of rice, lentils and vegetables every day. I refused it.
“I have never tasted such food in my life. I used to eat quality rice, meat and various kinds of fish delicacies.”
Instead of eating “run-of-the-mill” food, Debabrata chose to drink only tea. He lives in an abandoned room on the premises of the Purbasthali health centre.
Doctors at Burdwan Medical College and Hospital said a person can survive on tea but would lose physical strength and resistance. “An adult needs 1,500-2,000 calories and at least 1.5 litres of water daily which Bhismadeb and Debabrata are getting from tea,” said Dr Madhusudhan Chatterjee.
“Normally, a cup of tea contains around 100 calories, which means they are both getting around 2,000 calories daily.”
Hospital superintendent Debashish Bhattacharjee, however, warned: “They would fall ill sooner or later. Everyone needs a balanced diet.”