Chai pe Charcha: Tea sellers in DU’s North Campus and the conversations around them
Tea isn’t just any other beverage — it’s the elixir of life especially when it comes to Delhiites. And, just as important the drink is, is the significance of the person whose deft hands brew this beverage to perfection. Campus chaiwallahs (tea sellers) have forever been a part of any DU student’s life, and their stalls are the very birthplace of the phenomenon called chai pe charcha (conversations over tea).
We speak to some of the best in the tea business at Delhi University’s North Campus, and make them reveal all the charcha (discussions) that takes place at their stalls.
KHAN TEA STALL, PATEL CHEST INSTITUTE
The Chai: This stall’s owner, Khan saab, makes special cardamom-infused chai, and serves it with Maggi, omelette, biscuits, and cream rolls. This tea has a simple formula — extra love, extra milk, and the right amount of sugar. A cuppa costs ₹10.
The Charcha: “Students, teachers, peons, other stall owners, yaha sab hi aate hai (Everyone comes here). Sabki apni baatein hai, aur sab kuchh na kuchh bata kar hi jaate hai. Kayi baar to bahut hi bheed ho jaati hai jab khoob saare bacche ghere bana ke baatein karte rehte hai ghanto tak. Assignments, classes aur politics se dil ke tootne tak, yaha har cheez ki khabar milti hai (Everyone has their own stories to share. Often the place gets very crowded when students form a huddle and talk for hours at length. From assignments, classes and politics to heartbreaks, we get to hear conversations of all kinds),” he says.
VISHNU TEA STALL, LAW FACULTY
The Chai: The man who owns this stall is a genius when it comes to achieving the right balance with tea, and is best known for his ginger masala chai. Vishnu pounds the ginger, tosses ingredients into boiling milk, and serves it just when the tea is pipping hot and of the right brown colour. Vishnu’s passion for his craft is evident. You can get a cup for ₹10, and munch away on bread pakoras, fen, and cream rolls, too.
The Charcha: “Subah bachche yahan baith ke padh lete hain, shaam ko yahan mehfil banti hai. Marks aur padhai ki baaton se lekar roz-roz ki jhik-jhik tak sab yaha par sun lete hai hum. Kayi baar to bachche apne hasi mazaak mein humein bhi kheech lete hain, to achha bhi lagta hai. Chai pilaana khaali kaam nahi hai humaara, hum khushi se pilaate hai, to usi bahane log apne dukh aur khushiyan humse bhi baant lete hai (In the mornings, students study here and in the evenings this place becomes a hangout zone. From academics to everyday problems, we get to hear everything. It feels nice when students involve us in their fun talks and jokes. Serving tea isn’t just a means of livelihood. We do it happily, and that’s why people share their sorrows and joys with us),” says Vishnu.
PANDIT JI KI CHAI, ARTS FACULTY
The Chai: This chaiwallah claims to not only serve the strongest tea, but also know about the most happening news in the university. Aashish, Pandit ji’s son, makes a killer masala chai, complete with a heady dose of ginger and cardamom. Boiled twice for perfection, the hot chai here is served with a rusk (or two), and is priced at ₹10 a cuppa.
The Charcha: “Election ka time ho, koi pradarshan ho, ya koi normal din ho, bheed yahan hamesha baithti hai. Politics, society, padhai ya girlfriend, yahan har baat ka zikr hota hai. DU ya Arts Faculty mein kuchh ho aur woh baat yahan tak na pahunche, aisa hota hi nahi. Main zyada baat nahin karta, par customer kuchh na kuchh to bata hi jaata hai (Be it the election time or protests, or a regular day, this place is always thronged by students. From politics to society and academics to love life, everything is discussed here. It never happens that a development from the University or the Arts Faculty doesn’t reach us. I don’t speak a lot, but customers still end up sharing their tales),” says Aashish.
JP TEA STALL, DELHI SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS
The Chai: A refreshingly unusual chai adda (tea hangout), this stall offers masala tea, iced tea, lemon tea and other such variants. Tea lovers from around the campus frequent this spot, which serves its tea in clear glasses. Even though the masala tea is not to be missed, we’d recommend trying their iced tea. Because according to Deepu bhaiya, who manages the stall: “Lemon tea to fancy wale peete hain (Lemon tea is preferred by those who like fancy things).” A cup of tea is priced at ₹8.
The Charcha: “Log JP tea stall ko chai aur charcha ke liye hi jaante hai. Student log baith jaate hain side mein aur baatein karte hai. Kai baar toh teachers bhi aa jaate hai. Jab exam ho to yahan tension ka mahaul hota hai, jab fest ka time aata hai to raunak aa jaati hai. College mein dost hon na hon, yahan zaroor bann jaate hai (JP stall is known for its chai and discussion only. Students and even teachers frequent this place. It’s a tense atmosphere when its examination time, but at the time of college fests, the environment lightens and enlivens again. You might or might not have friends in college, but you will surely make some here),” says Deepu from the stall.
SUDAMA TEA STALL, RAMJAS COLLEGE
The Chai: If chaiwallahs were rockstars, Sudama uncle would easily be one. He sits next to Ramjas College wall, and can spotted from far away, brewing his blend in large boilers. The stall has students line-up since morning with flasks, and the evenings have cars of all kinds lined up just for a sip of the magic masala chai. Strong and flavourful, the chai has generous helpings of special homemade masala, ginger, and cardamom. Lovingly called Sudama chacha or mamaji (uncle), this tea seller has quite a social media presence, too. You can get a cuppa for ₹10.
The Charcha: “Jahan chai hai waha charcha to hoti hi hai. Din bhar yaha bachho ka shor rehta hai, har cheez ki baat hoti hai. Koi chai kaise banate ho pooch leta hai, koi government ke baare mein rai maang leta hai aur baaki hass khel lete hai. Mujhe bass achha lagta hai logo ko chai peeke khush hote dekhne mein. Kaafi log yahan par facebook ya video dekh ke aa jaate hai, tab pata chalta hai ki kisi ne kuchh likha hai humaare baare mein (Wherever there’s tea, there are discussions. There is chatter and noise all around. We get asked things like how we make our tea, or our opinion on the government, and some others simply joke around. I just feel satisfied seeing them enjoy the tea. A lot of people locate us through social media, and it’s then that we find out what people have written about us).”
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