21 Apr 2011

Chai Garam...Chai Garam...

"Chai Garam, Chai Garam....!! I had heard these words several times during my recent travel in one of the long distance trains. If you are a tea person, that call would surely tempt you to respond with a "Oye bhaiya, Ek chai", but those words got me thinking about the national drink of our country (unofficially, of course)

Tea as a drink has now become almost synonym to the small 'tapri' (roadside stalls) in Mumbai. A small stall with the least investment, It's a very common sight to see vendors, workers, middle-class men, and nowadays call center crowd flocking around these tea stalls during their free time.They seem to be around every corner. From outside multinational company complex to railway and bus stations, from new construction sites to industrial areas, these stalls are making their mark everywhere.

Tapri chai is a fix most office-goers can't do without. This is a place where friends gather during the day in true convivial spirit to partake of this hearty brew and catch up on the local gossip. It’s usually served in small tea glasses, but you haven’t really enjoyed it until you pour it on an empty saucer and simply slurp.Tapri also gives solace to a lot of college going kids who find the tapri the most affordable place to pass time between classes (...or during class, hehe). The easiest way to recognize tapri is firstly by seeing a group of people around it, or by their kerosene operated stoves.

 The Mumbai tapri chai is also a relief to many of the mumbaikars who go on foot till Siddhivinayak (A famous temple in Mumbai) on Tuesday mornings. Tuesday mornings, this tea is the energy drink that drives these religious ones to their destination. Many generous stalls provide free cups of tea to these regular walkers at various stops on the way.

 Also, one of the oldest restaurants in Mumbai known for its tea is the 'Tea Centre' at Churchgate, Mumbai. Its not only known for its variety of tea, but more for its ambience. Even though its very different than the standard tapris in mumbai, the experience there, can transfer you from today to yester-years look, with small silver bells on the table to call out to the waiter, beautiful surroundings and old-style furniture. The Tea Centre was initially opened by the Tea Board of India to promote the drink.

I, however have never been able to come to terms with the ability of certain people to spend more than 10/- for a cup of tea. So to find out what is the thrill all about, I decided to once find out how it felt and went to one of the coffee shops and ordered Masala Chai. Eventually I ended up spending Rs. 40/- for boiled water in a stylish cup, milk, sugar and tea bags given separately. But that of course is a different story. At the end of this little social experience, I had to go to the nearest tapri to enjoy the feeling of having a true masala chai.

Mumbai is known as the city of dreams, but the tapri's of mumbai are the alarm clocks that help people wake up to achieve those dreams.

Its just difficult to imagine a city without few of them around the neighbourhood. This article sure has given me a craving for a chai, Anyone care to join?

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