The Chaiwallahs of Delhi

Come winter and probably the most consumed drink in India by common man is tea.  When we were little kids our elders would say tea is a bad habit, an addiction that the English left us with and young kids should not have it while sipping a cup of tea themselves. Having a cup of tea in India is an important daily activity.  You may not have taken a bath in the morning because it’s too cold but you certainly take a cup of tea.  There’s always a reason to have some tea. If you’re not having tea at yours or someone else’s home then you’re probably having it by these roadside tea vendors (chaiwallahs).  I can bet you can even find better tea here on roads than any five star hotel without burning a hole in the pocket.

So on one of my weekend outings with friends I decided to do a little project where I feature these chaiwallahs that contribute greatly to one of our most important activity.  Having a nice cup of tea.

a chaiwallah in Delhi

Shot with Canon 1100D

I took this shot above when I was out on a photo hunt for the photo marathon last month.  The man was extremely humble and polite.  The tea was just fine.  I took the shot while he was taking his smoke break while making tea.  He was also discussing going to a friend’s son’s wedding with his friends from nearby shops.  A strict vegetarian he was wondering if veg food will be served at this muslim wedding. If you’re in Alaknanda in Delhi near Kalka Public School do stop by and say hello for me.

Chai (tea) wallah on a street

Shot with Sony DSC-H20

I took this photo on the day our regular chaiwallah shop was closed. This one is in RK Puram area. I don’t exactly remember the location but it was in front of a Motherdairy booth and on the boundary wall of a school.  It was dark and the only light available was the shop’s tubelight on top of the man’s head. I had to use the highest ISO my camera offered at 800. I wish my beast was with me but still I liked the way light was illuminating him. Despite all that grain I thought the photo came out nice. It portrayed the story I wanted to tell and served my purpose well. Tea, however, was just fine.

Shot with Canon 1100D

Mr Ram Lal in his shop. Shot with Canon 1100D

This little project wouldn’t be complete without featuring the tea that me and my friends love the most.  One of my friend who’s addicted to tea introduced us to this special tea couple of years ago and we have been  hooked ever since. This is Mr Ram Lal’s shop at the Sarojani Nagar Ringroad market on the same street towards left of the famous Pakoda (Fried Snacks) shop. If you’re nearby and don’t mind spending few minutes please do try out his tea. The shop is right in front of a big peepal tree. Take notice of the pictures here in the post and you’ll find it once you’re there.

My friends Manoj and Rakesh waiting for their tea at the shop

My friends Manoj and Rakesh waiting for their tea at the shop

This chaiwallah’s roadside shop is our meeting point during the weekends and now we’re this man’s favorite customers.  You can say that if the man is pulling out chairs from his dark tiny shop just for us.  I can tell you chairs are not offered to every one on these roadside shops.  What’s special about this man apart from the great tea he makes is the fact he takes a lot of time to make it. No rush.

Mr Lal making his famous tea

Mr Lal making his famous tea

He works like a chef-cum-artist in his little shop grinding secret spices and masalas together in a piece of paper using a hammer for the tea.  Which probably gives the tea its unique taste. I asked for the permission to take couple of shots from inside for a photo of him making our tea and he was fine with the idea. The scene inside was dark but too little space meant I couldn’t have included the entire scene with my 50mm. So I stayed with my wide angle and shot with the highest ISO.

Rajiv back from bangalore (1 of 1)-2

My friends enjoying Mr Lal’s tea on another day

I’m  probably going to expand this project and cover more people. One of the most difficult part of doing a project like this is actually approaching strangers and asking them for a photo. I’m not comfortable taking someone’s photo without permission. I’d rather ask for a photo wherever I can and still should be able to get the kind of photo I want without losing the candidness. So that means it’ll force me to approach strangers in a situation that attracts me. I have been surprised with the responses and it’s only encouraged me to do another project which I’ve already started working on. Hope you enjoyed this one. Have a great holiday season everyone!

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