City Food – Zina Tea Stall, Chitli Qabar Bazar
An unusual chai stall.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The staircase is not always only an architectural utility. Sometimes it can be a tea stall. That’s true for one place in Old Delhi.
Indeed, the little establishment in Chitli Qabar bazaar, barely known beyond its immediate locality, is called Zina Tea Stall, after the Urdu word for “staircase”.
Like most Walled City chai shacks, it faces the chaotic street; and yet, is sheltered. Swaddled in its own quietude, indifferent to the bazaar’s hectic pace.
At this very moment the owner is sitting behind his stove and tea pans, right on that staircase that leads up to…? “My home!” informs Muhammed Ameen, an unfailingly courteous and thoughtful gentleman. Every morning he can be spotted carrying cups of piping hot chai to aged beggars nearby.
The stall has been around for a while, founded by his late father in 1980. It somehow seems astonishing that this makeshift landmark has already witnessed two generations of owners.
But gradually one absorbs the solidity of the enterprise by examining its time-tinted elements: cups and glasses stacked on a wooden shelf, the much-used boiling pan, and, of course an array of regular customers, including local shopkeepers.
And the chai is delicious, if perhaps too sweet for some palates.
An apt way of experiencing this pleasing stall is sitting on the “zina” right behind it. Open daily from 10am to 4pm.
An unusual staircase