In Pune,a tea stall is not just a tea stall. It is an amrutulaya,and there are nearly a thousand in the city
On punes busy JM Road,famous for its many swanky,international fast-food joints,one can still not miss the refreshing smell of tea emanating from Trivedi Amrutulaya,a tiny kiosk,with a small signboard,where a cup of chai is prepared as traditionally as it can get: in a brass vessel,to which loads of sugar,tea leaves,ginger and cinnamon are added,after which the broth is boiled and stirred endlessly. Adding to this old-world charm are plastic chairs,wooden tables,a mirror,a Ganpati idol and a transistor playing old Hindi film songs. It is this relaxed,content and unpretentious aura,along with,of course,the sweet,over-cooked tea,that still attracts visitors. We spot an elderly couple quietly sipping chaha,unperturbed by the loud banter of a group of young joggers sitting beside them at the shop.
Twenty-year-old Trivedi Amrutulaya is one of the 923 licensed tea stalls spread across Pune that suffix their names with or simply call themselves amrutulaya,literally meaning comparable to nectar. Some of them have been around for more than 100 years,and despite the commercialised coffee culture taking over the city,continue to thrive,without changing their style of preparing tea or their humble ambience.
Though spread over diverse parts of the city from upmarket residential areas to crowded,old parts they have a more or less uniform way of functioning: they open at 6.30 am,and shut at 8 pm, the setting is plain,and the menu,besides offering tea,also has poha and samosas (though some,like Rajendra Dhave,who runs an amrutulaya at the bustling Ghole Road,have introduced coffee and chips too). We charge Rs 6 for a cup of tea. Four years ago,it was Rs 2…ab mehngai bhi badh gayi hai, says Trivedi.
As Dhave fills our glass with piping hot chaha,he remembers the time his father ran the shop. We had eight such shops,but my brothers got into other businesses. My business though is profitable, he says. Dhaves amrutulaya gets close to 4,000 customers every day. As a kid,Id see artistes from the nearby Aryabhushan Theatre coming here and sharing a cup for long periods. Dholak repairers would also come. Theyd play music and sip along. Now,of course,youngsters in ties and trousers,tired from a long day of work,stop by only for a quick sip. Times and customers change,but the amrutulayas chaha is still as refreshing as ever.