Ek Cup Chai!

Early morning walks to work, something that we usually overlook is the chai wala in a corner.

I usually see him holding two narrow bottom glasses and staring at steaming hot tea that streams from one glass into another. The intense pouring of the hot liquid makes it luke warm.

Like the bhaiya on my route to work, there are more than 6000 tea stalls that govern Delhi’s Tea culture. All catering to different people coming from all walks of life. From dusk to dawn they serve a limited menu but with a lot of patience. Most of these stalls comprise of strong bamboo sticks supporting a shelter made of old fiber plastic sheets. Interiors include an antique counter that holds a gas stove, a kerosene lamp, old utensils burnt to black with leftover bits of their former essence, a relatively big kadai that stores cooking oil in the open for the day’s food, half empty egg trays, 10–15 narrow bottom glasses and a rare variety of conversation coming from different regions and assorted personalities. Usually, there are no seating arrangements made, but some of these stalls give you the comfort of tables made out of rotten wood stable enough to hold a satisfying cup of tea and maybe a heavy armrest.

A tasteful treat for a curious eye and for those hungry stop overs, the menu is pretentiously small of course served with a big heart. The menu usually consists of eggs to order, cheap bakery products and a rare blend of teas — regular, medium or kadak and of course there always was Maggi in different styles- with cheese, with egg, maggi achari (before it got banned) . For those who are hungry for conversations, a buzz ranging from politics, corruption, daily problems of different classes in our social system to movies, music, cell phones and electronics this is your adda.

Every discussion is spoken over a ‘cup of chai’, other than breaking class barriers it’s a perfect place to meet authentic Delhi-ites. Friendliest of all people, these chai wale bhaiyas would know their surrounding areas at the tip of their tongues.

Chai has been a part of the life journey for many. From our youth to the sunset of this bloom the chai-wale bhaiya, the adda has been an indispensable part of our journey.

In the rush of life, we tend to blink out such figures. So the next time you walk through an unknown street or lose your way, be sure you stop by a local tea stall, to rejuvenate your senses and find your way back home again.

For all the chai-wale bhaiyas out there.

-By Purnima Ann Varghese

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