Chai ki Tapari (Chai Corners)
It would be quite uncharacteristic to start discussing Chai and not touch upon Chai Wallahs (sellers) running Chai Taparis (Chai corners) seen in every nook and corner of India. How we start reminiscing and picturing roadside french cafes when we talk about coffee and french baked goods – it’s quite similar in case of Chai in India. Though one could argue that they’re not always as beautifully laid out and quaint as we’d find cafes in Europe, they are as integral to way of local life in India. Guess just like everything else in life, beauty of a place is not about how well it’s put together and how beautiful it looks to the eye, but what it reminds you of when you think back about it in future. And in that regard, Chai Taparis take center stage – be it childhood buddies that decide to hang out after school or college, office employees taking breaks to vent or release some tension, or simply meeting someone for a casual affair, it would be a tapari. That’s where we got together after school or college, started discussing our petty problems in life at the time, which unvaryingly were about girls or exam scores. Day wouldn’t be complete until band of brothers got together at a tapari and had bouts of laughter for a while about absolutely anything – those probably were the best memories about Taparis as no matter how serious the situation was, once you’re there among buddies over a cup of chai, it would melt away and you’d find yourself laughing about the same situation that had you perplexed moments ago. It definitely was the group of close friends that had that power to do that to you – but memories would not be complete without presence of that special place, Tapari.
Chai Wallahs running Taparis are so commonplace in India that they have much more significance than just a place for teenagers to hang out. Almost every office district or street would have bunch of chai wallahs serving to nearby workplaces. It is almost an ‘office culture’ to take a break every couple of hours and walk outside of the office premise to the Tapari with colleagues and have a Chai, usually accompanied by Sutta (cigarette; we don’t promote consumption of cigarettes). Replace ‘water cooler’ discussions with ‘Tapari’ discussions if you’re trying to have a casual, yet important conversation with your boss, colleague, or simply trying to network with teammates when new in office. I’ve had conversations ranging from a cricket match to discussing critical customer issues, or even serious personal issues such as divorce that a colleague was undergoing. There’s no other better place in office setting to open up than at a Tapari over chai.
As times are changing, we see trends changing a bit as well. It is not uncommon to find folks turning to air-conditioned Baristas or Cafes that serve premium coffee drinks and provide an upscale ambience to meet and greet. These are better places for intimate discussion with someone in an enclosed environment, however, to us, if you’re looking for bare bone experience of informal, casual interaction, Tapari is still the place to be. Maybe we’re purists or just biased and clinging to memories of past that were romantic for us at this place, but isn’t everyone of us that way a little bit 😉
Leaving you with some glimpses of chai taparis across India and people enjoying a sip of chai 🙂