A chaiwala (Hindi: चायवाला, IAST: cāyavālā) is a person who prepares, sells or serves tea on streets or small roadside shops in the Indian subcontinent. They are an integral part of Indian tea culture. Chai is the Hindustani word for "tea", as in masala chai, and wallah indicates the person performing the task, so chaiwalla is a street seller of tea.
Chaiwalas, as an entrepreneurial group, tend to move from different regions of India to run their small business in major cities. They boil a mixture of water and milk, add tea leaves and then strain the tea into containers or a tea kettle. They usually serve tea in a small glasses or unglazed clay teacups (kulhar) but, in the modern era, they have started to serve tea in plastic cups. Traditionally, tea was made in brass vessels. The hygienic safety of tea prepared in this manner is disputed.
Chaiwala in popular culture
In the 1955 classic film Shri 420, the hero (Raj Kapoor) brings the heroine (Nargis) to a road-side tea stall. The chaiwala insists on receiving a payment of two annas (anna is 1/16th of a rupee) for the two cups. The scene serves as a prelude for the famous song "Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua", during which the chaiwala is shown sipping the tea from a saucer (which was common among the unsophisticated people). In the 2009 drama Slumdog Millionaire, the lead character, Jamal Malik (played by Dev Patel), is a chaiwala in an Indian call center.
As well as Sagar Desai, the Westbourne batsman and Club Chaiwalla, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his youth, worked as a chaiwala for his father. He occasionally used to serve tea to the customers of his father's tea-stall outside the Vadnagar railway station. During the 2014 Indian general election, Modi hosted a series of "chai pe charcha" ("discussion over tea") events at tea stalls across India, highlighting his humble background in stark contrast to the dynastic politics of the opposition.
Modi's chaiwala background was mocked by Mani Shankar Aiyar, a senior leader of the then ruling Congress Party. BJP successfully turned the barb into a great opportunity to emphasise his humble beginnings. The former tea stall near Vadnagar railway station in Gujarat has become a tourist spot.
After Modi's success, the press noted several successful chaiwalas as examples of humble people who are capable of rising. They include:
- Laxman Rao of Delhi, author of 24 books
- Arshad Khan of Islamabad, became a model and singer. He was later revealed to be an Afghan from Kandahar, living illegally in Pakistan. His performance as a singer and as an actor has been underwhelming.
- Navnath Yewle of Pune, who makes a living running a tea house.
There was an obscure Parsi author during 1920s Phirozeshah Jamsetjee Chaiwala "Chevalier" whose manuscript The Tower of Silence was discovered by historian Gyan Prakash in the British Library, in 2013, and published by Harper Collins.[relevant? ]
- Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2012
- Tea lady, a similar occupation in Britain
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- IMDb Slumdog Millionaire Quotes
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- Pakistan’s blue-eyed chaiwalla model belongs to Afghanistan, say authorities, Hindustan Times, Jul 11, 2017
- Chaiwala's new song is out and it is not quite what we expected, Express Tribune, January 2, 2017
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- The Tower of Silence, a Zoroastrian detective story, British Library, 12 DECEMBER 2013
- Tea Tuesday: Meet The Chai Wallahs Of India, NPR June 14, 2016
- The chai walas of India, Showkat Shafi, AlJazeera, Oct 2016