City Food – Tea Stall’s Account Book and Chai, Roshanpura, Gurgaon
The ecosystem of chai.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Each pavement chai stall looks alike in its extreme modesty—there’s the pan, or kettle, the stove and the gas cylinder. But each chai stall is unique, its character coming from the person who runs it.
So is the case with Jaiveer Singh’s kiosk in Gurgaon’s Roshanpura in the National Capital Region. Stacked against the glass walls of a garment showroom, Mr Singh’s stall is the epicenter of the area’s social ecosystem. Here, traders come to gossip about the state of the bazar. Here, disputes are allowed to run their full course. All the while, Mr Singh diligently jots down credits on his bahikhata, his account book. It’s a most pretty object. With thick sheaves of pages sewed along its end, he said, “it is my lifeline… here I maintain the account of my customers who keep ordering tea throughout the day, and in the evening I settle my hisaab (account).”
Pages after pages scrawled in blue link, Mr Singh’s precious bahikhata has the names of his daily customers, which include shopkeepers, labourers, rickshaw pullers, vegetable sellers and courier boys.
In fact, until some years ago, Mr Singh was a labourer and “before that, I was a courier boy.”
Inevitably, the tea man’s day is furiously hectic; but he does find moments to pursue his passion—playing crosswords published daily in a Hindi newspaper. Even then people are constantly clamouring for his attention. Almost every third person going down the street stops to exchange a word with him. Just now, a motorcyclist riding with his three school-going daughters stops by to ask about the background story of a street squabble—that naturally took place by the tea stall just some minutes ago. Spending an hour or so by Mr Singh’s stall gives a sense of a seemingly modest landmark enriching the locality with a generous layer of social solidarity. The stall opens daily from 8am to 6pm, Sunday’s closed.
And yes, the adrak-flavoured chai is delicious.
The record of a tea community