Delhiwale: A South Extension survivor
- A modest establishment that has outlived a great number of landmarks in the area.
The wall is partitioned into light and shade. The lit portion is splattered with moving shadows of tree leaves. A tiny wooden temple is clamped on one corner of the wall, containing the idols of Ganesh and Lakshmi.
This wall and the counter running along it constitute a tea stall in South Extension II, just behind the Metro station exit. It’s called... well, Tea Stall. “This was started 40 years ago by my dadi (grandmother), Basanti,” owner Pammi informs, while slicing a sprig of ginger, in a gruff tone as if he can’t waste his time on idle chat. He wordlessly transfers the ginger pieces into a little mortar and pestle, crushes them into a paste, and tosses the gooey mess into a pan of boiling chai. The pan is thoroughly chipped, its sooty surface evocative of those forgotten Delhi ruins, whose stones acquire an ethereal cover of patina after centuries of exposure to changing seasons.
The establishment is noteworthy because it comes with a kind of lounge—with benches plonked across the footpath. This sunny afternoon two friends are sitting on one of the sun-soaked benches, chatting over chai and mathri (noodles and omelette are also served). A third person is perched on another bench. Wearing an executive-style pant-shirt-and-tie, he is tapping on his laptop.
The stall’s counter is as absorbing as a museum display. A lower shelf is crammed with tea kettles of various sizes. Another shelf is filled with thermos flasks. “I also supply the chai to various shops, and it remains hot in the thermos,” he explains.
The tea shack is also special because it has survived the drastic changes South Extension has undergone over the recent years. A great number of landmarks in the area that one took for granted have become history—the Ebony showroom, the Planet M music shop, a Mills & Boon kiosk, and the Kitkat dhaba that served most excellent rajma chawal for an obscenely cheap price.
Now, another round of chai is ready and Pammi starts to pour it into a thermos.
For best experience, hit the stall in the afternoon, take over the bench, give repeat orders of ginger chai and spend hours reading a book, or reading the fashionable people walking past the expensive showrooms. And yes, look out for a first floor glass-fronted empty space across the street. It was a chic coffee shop until last year, and is history.
The shop opens daily, including Sunday, from 6am to 8pm.