City Hangout – Couple’s Chai, Ram Ram Ji Stall
A cute tea corner.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is astonishing that such a small place can trigger such a smorgasbord of sentiments. First, you notice the couple behind the counter. They are utterly silent, and yet seem to be chatting animatedly with each other through their eyes. Then you notice metal bowls hanging by plastic chords from the stall’s roof. These containers are filled with sprigs of ginger. Then you see a dainty chai kettle hanging in a similar fashion. And finally you notice the dozens of earthen kulhar cups stacked up on the counter.
The tea stall in south Delhi’s Chirag Delhi village lies close to Shiv Mandir, the area’s signature landmark, and across the road from a centuries-old stone gateway. The stall is situated so discreetly that it isn’t noticeable. But once sighted, it is difficult not to glance at it repeatedly. The charm of the place is infectious, and even if you are not feeling for chai (it’s such a hot afternoon), you might like to greet the friendly seeming couple with a Ram-Ram. For this is the name of the stall.
Ram Prakash agrees that his stall’s name is a popular form of greeting, but there’s another logic behind it. “We are from Ayodhya, the place of Bhagwan Ram, so we named it Ram Ram.” He points out that out of reverence towards the God, the full name painted on the stall is Ram Ram Ji.
“Shanti Devi and I started our dukan five years ago,” informs Ram Prakash. Hearing her name, his wife instinctively adjusts the pallu of her sari on her head. On receiving a request for chai, the tea man picks up a pair of small metallic mortar-and-pestle and quietly starts grinding a piece of ginger to add to the boiling chai. A person’s life has many phases, he remarks some moments later. “I used to be a (house) painter.” A bike accident disrupted his world. “One of my legs no longer works, and my wife doesn’t have one leg… we thought a chai stall might help us raise our son and (two) daughters.”
By now the tea is ready. It is delicious and frothy, and the hot weather fails to dampen its invigorating effect. One feels as if one had woken up energised from a long deep slumber.
The stall also serves lassi, and opens daily from 8am to 8pm.
Chai from Ayodhya