‘Tapri’ Tales: Conversations over Cutting Chai

Tapri can be identified as a humble rambled neighborhood corner tea stall which sells you a smoke, biscuits and snacks. Its significance as a locus of community engagement goes beyond the unimpressive physical confines which it depicts.  This urban street corner joint is a great social leveler in which the office boy interacts with the MD as both share a crackle over a smoke, whether it is a chota gold flake or Rothmans (brands are insignificant as it is the nicotine kick that counts, right?). In aping the west, the Glitzy office blocks are non smoking zones, and even the overseas educated snobs are compelled to share the space with mundane workforce cousins of the office complex.  I do not have a negative bias against smoking as I understand that it is a lifestyle choice as much as a drink at a pub on a Saturday evening.

 Office Gossips and petty plans are concocted over a cutting chai in the five minute post lunch walkabout downstairs.  A node of interactions with peers beyond your office floor; a quick eye to eye  glance with the latest eye candy in the block, adds those microseconds of joy to ones dreaded cubicle slavery.

I do not smoke but I have been a passive smoker over the last few years of my life due to my friends who enjoy a drag. I can sense the kick which esteemed bosses have when they substitute their Cappuccino at Costa for a 6 rupees wala cutting chai. 8% of the cost, 8 times more kick with a chota gold flake.  Tapri as they call the significant social institution in Mumbai sells you poha or samosa for breakfast or a quick bite in 15-20 rupees where a normal meal at a registered eatery will set you back by at least 50-70 bucks (kindly excuse the hygiene levels please). For the invisible urban underbelly that keeps our homes, offices and communities functioning at equilibrium- the tapris are a lifeline in these times of inflation and economic uncertainty.

In Delhi and in general the NCR, Tapris offer a lot more on the plate (pun intended) in terms of the fare they serve. It is cold currently in the height of the winter in Delhi, it serves one eggs, maggi and sometimes steamed chicken dumplings (momos) that makes one warm.  It is a mini eatery on wheels in a way.  The tapri owner is a walking talking yellow pages of the services available in the area. Well, sometimes all kinds of services, which a decent boy next door really does not need to know off.

The pulse of a community can be gauged from frequenting the tapri, whether it is the sentiment over Arvind Kejriwal dharna at Rail Bhawan or Katrina Kaif in Malang.  I was pleasantly shocked that the tapri next door sells the Indonesian cigarette Godam Garam and it pretty popular I have unscientifically observed during winter. Although the barely literate tapri owner is aware that it is an ‘imported’ cigarette, it is the embodiment of how globalization has reached the urban classes in India.

The joy of a cutting chai, pani kum or strong tea cannot be equated with the inorganic finesse of a CCD.  Truly a lot more happens over a chai 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s