A four decades old pavement tea seller at Chawri Bazar: The story of Dhoop ChandRehan Asad
Tea/Chai is an indispensable part of Indian life. From morning to late night, every moment is the tea time in Indian context embedded with its social & cultural context. Recently a historical article written by Nikhil Sonnad cited the terms“Cha/Tee” both as the mandarin in origin & it became “Chaa/Chai” where it reached by land & Tee/Tea when it took the sea route. So we became the country of “Chay” like Arabic & Persian world where one can find the similar name “Shaay” & “Chai”.
From rural landscapes to urban settlements, the roadside tea sellers (Chaiwallas) are an inextricable part of Indian street food. The most common South Asian version of Chai is prepared by adding loose black tea in the mixture of boiling water & milk.
Chaiwallas can be found in each & every corner in the bustling lanes of Shahjahanabad that are famous for its street foods other than its heritage & culture. Hardly hundred meters away from the historic Ruknud Daula mosque, a tea seller was sitting on a pavement just a step away from eighty years old signboard dealers’shop, Lachhman Dass & Co. Evening prayer was finished at Ruknud Daula mosque, & I stopped at the stall for a cup of tea during one of the visits to the walled city during summer vacations in India. A middle-aged man Dhoop Chand was seated on a wooden block with a saucepan brewing “Doodh Paati” on a kerosene stove placed in front of him. An open bucket full of water, two rustic containers of sugar, loose black tea, and few utensils filled with milk & a spare kettle with a small stove. This is all that makes his stall.
Dhoop Chand like millions of the immigrants in Delhi came from a small village of Azamgarh district from Uttar Pradesh. He was not able to recall the date when he came to Delhi in the search of work. On asking he responded gently “Sahab us zamane me dus paise ki Chai bechta tha aur main jawan tha, ab main poti/pote wala hun”. He said “In those days, I use to sell the tea in ten paisa. I was a young boy. Now I have grandsons & granddaughters. The tea cup now cost ten Indian Rupees. Might be forty/forty five years has been passed”. While the tea has been prepared, I requested him to serve in paper cup. The tea was balanced with light sugar & strong flavor as I requested for “tez patti.” After four decades, Dhoop Chand is now a Delhi Walla who has purchased a small residential space where his entire extended family is residing with him. For his entire family, this pavement tea shop was the only source of livelihood from last four decades.