Delhiwale: Tea hour at the clock tower
Panditji ki chai is an institution in Hari Nagar’s Ghanta Ghar square. Opened in 1984 by Bhudev Singh, a migrant from Unnao in UP, tea is served here from 6am to 9pm, seven days a week.delhi Updated: Jun 16, 2017 15:57 IST
The coal-fired stove looks like an antique. So does the shiny old wooden cot where customers sit with their Hindi newspapers. The other objects in the room are a little metal grinder and the plastic milk bucket. There is also a kettle with sooty black blemishes.
This chai establishment in Hari Nagar’s Ghanta Ghar square in west Delhi has no name but it is still an institution. Opened in 1984 by Bhudev Singh, a migrant from Unnao in UP, it serves chai from 6am to 9pm, seven days a week. Mr Singh has long gone to the next world and the stall is run by his son, Ramsevak, aka Panditji. The regulars — mostly auto-rickshaw drivers and rickshaw pullers — refer to the tea as “Panditji ki chai”. Some customers go back to the days of Panditji’s father.
The fact that this seemingly makeshift stall has been here for more than 30 years offers a sense of stability in a furiously changing world. Nothing marks the passage of time as starkly as the Hari Nagar clock tower at the center of the square — the stall has a clear view of the landmark. The tower was renovated some years ago (the old clock has been replaced by a digital display screen). This attempt at modernity is almost amusing — who needs a tower to check the time these days?
The stall’s daily life is engrossing. Auto-rickshaw drivers gossip about politics, while somebody or the other inevitably ends up playing a prank on Panditji. Sometimes exhausted rickshaw pullers are seen quietly sipping their chai; at times they simply park their rickshaws in front of the stall and close their eyes.
And yes, the chai is excellent. Unlike the tea served in most roadside shacks, Panditji’s tea is not vulgarly rich with sugar and milk. It’s strong and flavoured with freshly ground cardamom (remember we mentioned the little grinder). In short, we have decided to become regulars. Price ~6.