Chai Tapri

this place is unlike others;
like a poet’s metaphor.
i promise you it is unlike others.
it is not an eatery,
quite certainly not a cafe.
it is a tapri;
there is no word other than that
that qualifies.
your welcome is commenced
by the rude smell of testosterone.
above you, an airplane zips past,
only partly visible through the smoke-filled sky,
only partly audible amidst the chattering din.
you hear
talks of revolution
that die down with the last sip of chai
that is served in earthen cups
which are secretly reused,
like history lessons.
there is a sole tree, red from the waist down,
in the corner of the establishment,
that survives on tobacco gob.
as you squeeze yourself on a bench,
you see the metro trudging away
in the distance.
most of these men have gotten here
on that very metro;
the office is a hundred heavy miles away.
the owner calls every man by his name,
“Zeeshan Bhai, sending chai and a Goldflake.”
Zeeshan nods smugly.
three trains away from home,
he is still called by his name, and he likes it.
a police car sirens its way across the road,
slowing down ever so slightly as it does.
it is met with a crowd of scornful looks.
“Bhai, don’t close it even a second before 11”,
the burliest man tells the owner,
“i’ll see to it if these rascals do anything.”
the owner, reassured, breaks down again
into the song he was singing, occasionally hurling
profanities at his workers for their inept work.

at 2 am,
the tapri is nothing but a ghost play-yard.
there is no one cursing the government.
the paan stains have dried by now
and look like crushed roses on the velvet ground.
there are three dogs, that stroll in presently.
they take their seats
and start yapping away.
they must be talking about how
difficult it is to come by a bone these days.
i don’t know.
your guess is as good as mine.
but they know they are welcome there.
the only place they won’t be shooed off from,
and that is enough for another day’s toil.

Hanzala Mojibi is a Post Graduation Literature student of Ambedkar University Delhi, having been at the forefront of all the protests against CAA-NRC. Political and social issues charge his writings as he wishes to make a mark on people’s minds on contemporary issues. On a lighter note, an aspiring modern polymath, he loves writing, photography, painting, football, sketching, and getting to know random bits of knowledge that will never come to use in his lifetime.

The featured image is an illustration by Pariplab Chakraborty. To view more such illustrations, click here.