Panthapath circle's Mohammad Hannan is the media's new favourite tea-seller.
The reason for his fame is that he sells tea, unlike regular tong makers, in formal attire – ironed pants, shirts and shoes. Ever since he went viral on social media, TV journalists are crowding in; stories on the internet about this 'smart tea seller' are garnering views.
'Smart' Hannan is aware of it.
And with great fame comes great happiness.
"I used to be aware of my outfit from my childhood. I was always fashion-conscious. So when I came up with the idea of this tea store around seven years ago, I didn't change myself to adjust the way others do. Instead, I realised this is my job, I should treat this with respect, and be presentable to my clients," Hannan said.
"And people loved this. They found me different, my store cleaner, and the tea better," he added.
If you drink his tea and have a chat with him of late, Hannan will sing his heart out with one after another Kumar Sanu songs (read happiness), which you might have listened to in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
He will tell you the tales of his life for free, if you catch him on an off-peak hour. He will tell you how he met his wife, where they first talked and dated. He even made a song parodying Babu's "Mouchak Markete Holo Dekha", line by line, depicting where and how he met his wife.
His opening line goes, "Concord Towerete Holo Dekha."
He made me listen to that song twice.
Hannan's tea store opens in the evening. When I got there, the roadside tong store was already bustling with chattering crowds, and pedestrians struggling to pass through on the narrowed footpath.
Beyond the boxes of conformity
Like any random roadside tea tongs, Hannan's is average. It doesn't have any distinct features.
But when you see a man of average Bangali height, in a clean ironed outfit, formal shoes, his hair carefully groomed, well shaved, formal and accurate Bangla, and sometimes using English words – you see an average corporate employee.
But he is actually selling tea. That is where you get a little confused, or slightly amused – for Hannan resembles a corporate employee - dressed sharp and dapper in ironed formal shirts - at the most relatable, pedestrian outlet: the roadside tea tong. Looking at Hannan - a juxtaposition of the formal employment sector and informal work - you may even be tickled to entertain the idea of what if you could make this work as well.
That is Hannan for this city's dwellers and pedestrians - perhaps a thought-provoking idea and a man on the job who challenges our preconceived notions of work and class.
And Hannan is not only a person free of hesitation, rather he beams with confidence and feels proud of what he does.
And doing so, Hannan earns more than an average corporate job holder.
How? He sells more than 500 cups of tea on an average day at a very conservative estimation. The lowest price for his tea is Tk10. Now, this too is not an uncommon income for a tea seller. We all probably know a tea seller who earns more than that.
But the spirit of Hannan as a person, the way he supported and eventually nurtured an educated family by selling tea on Dhaka's footpaths and the way he elevates the brand image of tea sellers that is otherwise deemed a low-key job is something that makes him different from the next tea seller.
"When I was a kid, my family experienced a financial crisis. My father died early. I couldn't study much. I started working early," Hannan said. "I had a grocery store in the Kalabagan area. But then I lost focus on the business due to a love-struck mind. My store was gone."
A young Hannan was deeply in love with his wife who then was a student at Lake Circus School. Chasing the girl made sense in his younger days, but his pocket dried up eventually as the business collapsed.
But victory in the 'affairs of love' - as he married soon after she went to college, made him return to reality.
We were speaking in between his paying customers on tow. Two young pedestrians were staring at Hannan and said, "Isn't this that smart tea seller?" They looked amused.
Hannan is proud of the rich and famous customers he serves. "Look, cricketers Sabbir, Nasir come here. Movie stars like Symon drink my tea. Many top business people drink my tea. I have to be in shape to look presentable to them."
Hannan's tea, however, could be up for debate on how good it tastes.
But he successfully built an environment, within himself and outside, that invites in customers and intrigues them to no end. His songs, you may not like them, set the spirit high, make you feel cosy and help think about life from a different angle.
"My wife has completed her studies at Dhaka University. I am thinking about what job would suit her. We have a little child as well. I raised my brother to become a banker. I have struggled in my life, but I have prepared the next generation better," concluded Hannan.