City Food – Baiju Tea Stall, Naya Bazar, Gurgaon
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Baiju Tea Stall in Gurgaon’s Naya Bazar has all the romance of standard street-side chai shacks littered across the National Capital Region—the friendly owner, the chipped kettles, the tangy scent of freshly chopped ginger. And, of course, the deliciously aromatic chai.
But this is more than just a tea stall. Baiju’s also draws another special set of clients—the migrants of Bihar. The area is home to labourers from that state and the tea stall helps them book travel tickets for journeys to home.
New Poorvanchal Express leaves the town every evening for north Bihar. “It’s a bus, not a train,” clarifies stall-owner Baiju, explaining that most trains leave for his home state from faraway New Delhi railway station and “their general classes are so crowded that there’s never any place to sit during the entire journey.” The bus is more expensive (1,000 rupees for a ticket) but you get the seat for the long 20-hour ride.
“And the bus drops you at the nearest point to your village,” a chai shop customer adds. This muggy afternoon, the place is teeming with redi-wallas, the cart-pullers. Some are sitting quietly; others are listening to Bhojpuri blockbusters on their mobiles. Nobody is talking of travelling to his village. Even so, the stall is infused with a yearning for those much-missed homes the migrant labourers have left behind for a better livelihood. A banner at the counter lists the towns the bus passes through: Khopa, Bhootiyan Chowk, Phari, Baluva, Narpatganj… the Bihar hinterland seems tantalising close.
Indeed, you can easily imagine a migrant like Baiju himself stepping off the bus and walking eagerly to his village, his luggage filled with gifts for the family.
Alas, it turns out that Baiju prefers the train to go to his village in Madhubani. “I feel scared in the bus… anything can happen on the road,” he says sheepishly, adding that travel bookings are managed by his brother. The stall is open daily from 10am to 8pm.
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