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He makes hay when the sun doesn't shine

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A chaiwallah serves customers outside a railway station in New Delhi.— File photo: AP
A chaiwallah serves customers outside a railway station in New Delhi.— File photo: AP

As citizens of the capital and north India shiver in the near-freezing weather, there is one person on the road who people look out for and who makes hay — not when the sun shines, but in the cold. These are the chaiwallahs , the ubiquitous band of small entrepreneurs who dot every market and prominent street junction as people flock to them for the cuppa that cheers and warms.

“Winter is the best time for us to earn money. Though my work almost triples during this time, it makes me happy,” Ram Deen, a young man who has been selling tea with his father since he can remember, told IANS.

Ram Deen and his father take their tea cart to different areas of Paharganj in central Delhi — a favourite with backpackers and budget tourists.

For Suresh Kumar, who owns a small shop near the Moolchand Metro station in south Delhi, tea-making is a profitable business during winter as he also offers light snacks. “I start selling tea from early morning. On an average, I make Rs. 300 to Rs. 400 a day, but since last week I have been earning almost Rs.700 a day because it has become cold,” the 32-year-old said. “I also sell biscuits, namkeen, noodles and bread omelette. People buy these more during winter. I make good money by serving them along with tea,” he added.

With the demand for tea increasing, many vendors in the city have also hiked the prices. A cup that is usually sold for Rs. 5 is now selling for Rs. 8. “In winter, everybody wants adrak [ginger] and elaichi [cardamom] chai ... so the cost goes up,” said Prem Saran. The 45-year-old, who has come from Mewat in Haryana, moved to Noida five years ago to sell tea. He sells 300 cups of tea a day.

Increased prices, however, do not deter consumers. “It’s the perfect way to start the day,” says Kanhaiya, who works as a sweeper at a gated neighbourhood in south Delhi.

The tea stall is one of the few places where social distinctions vanish because, after all, who doesn’t want a steaming cup of tea on a cold day? “We hardly get any break during the day and what better way to spend it than standing in the sun, sipping hot tea, and chatting with friends,” asked a middle-level executive at a tea stall outside a swanky office building in Noida. — IANS

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