The small glasses, the hissing sound of the stove, boiling tea in a rather stained pot, and yellow milk pouches, are the definitive sights and sounds at any roadside tea-stall in Chandigarh. They may not have upmarket varieties like Earl Grey and Darjeeling, but offer ginger and cardamom flavours on the go, or even both in one, that too at one-tenth the price of a fancy cuppa.
Om Prakash has been making and selling tea in Sector 17 for nearly 30 years, and is one of the oldest vendors here. He is 56 now. He migrated from Alwar district in Rajasthan for greener pastures.
“As there was not much to do in Alwar, my brother who had migrated before me to Chandigarh called me,” he says. He started in Sector 17 as there were many government offices there.
“About five years ago too, we were earning Rs 250 per day. At that time a tea cup price was Rs 5. But then offices from sector 17 started shifting either to Panchkula or Mohali. Now, we charge Rs 7- 10 per cup but earnings are roughly the same,” says Om Prakash. The margin is around Rs 1.5 per cup.
His father Loku Ram had once worked in this business and closed it. Thereafter Om Prakash restarted it. “When we started, one cup used to cost 25 paise. There were just 10-12 tea vendors. But now there must be around 50 in Sector 17,” he says.
On diversification, he says that some who have started selling bread pakoras and samosas are able to earn Rs 100-200 more a day.
Ram Chandra, a vendor under a tree in Sector 44, has similar views. He migrated from Budaun in Uttar Pradesh in 2000, and now owns a house in Maloya and is taking care of his family.
WHAT’S IN IT?
“I am able to earn around Rs 250 per day. Sometimes the profit falls to Rs 150 too. Also now there are many tea vendors in the market now which has divided the customers,” he says.
“I cannot say how many cups I have been preparing every day, but it’s not more than Rs 150 even on a good day. I buy milk at Rs 34 per kg every day,” says Chandra.
Over the years, he also started making paranthas for Rs 10 each for his customers who are mostly daily wagers.
Shera Singh of Allahabad migrated to Chandigarh about 20 years ago and set up a shop in Sector 34.
He has graduated to selling lunches along with tea where a number of workers come for economical food stuff. His son also works with him.
There are a number of tea vendors here but as the sector has huge footfall everyone is able to make something from tea vending alone.