Chai and the city

September 18, 2022

What if it is the endless chaos of this city that makes us fall in love with it?

Share Next Story >>>
— Photo by Jim Tegman on Unsplash.


L

Last week I found myself in the land known for one of the world’s most dangerous airports, Mount Everest, masala tea and tremendous calmness. I was in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was one of the places I had wanted to visit for as long as I can remember. Understandably, it was fascinating when eventually I did manage to end up in this beautiful cradle of nature, breathing the freshest of air, all while having late-night chat sessions with friends. Despite having a good time (and letting go of our worries for a few moments) over several cups of masala tea, we would still end up saying, yaar apni karak chai chahiye.

I did try to explain to the waiters how to make our desi chai but probably the concept was a alien to them.

Tea is strange. A change in water and milk, two essential ingredients for a cup of tea, can have a huge impact on its quality. I once experienced this horrible phenomenon on my last trip to Dubai, where, despite bringing my own tea bags and powdered milk, the chai was horrible, resulting in my living without decent tea for three sad weeks.

If you are a Lahori and a chai lover, then there is no way you’ve not had the experience of the renowned Yakoo ki chai, behind Abid Market. The tea stall never sleeps, even when the city is drowsy. Transgender people, beggars, lawyers, journalists, bike riders and some Pajero-wallahs can be seen hanging out, even on the hottest days of summer. Children in desi households often grow up hearing that tea is the perfect antidote to thirst. Though the theory is not backed by science, our national sentiment, chai chahiye, empahtically remains, regardless of the severity of seasons.

I can hardly see any butterflies in the city or any fireflies, yet the city is rich in heritage and poetry. Sadly, not many are interested in exploring those any longer.

The very first thing I wanted to do upon returning home was to have Yakoo ki chai with the right amount of milk, tea leaves and sugar, mixed well and boiled enough to have the familiar smooth thickness and tempting fragrance, in glass cups. I once tried to take it in plastic cups, but the feel and the taste were not the same.

I have a love and hate relationship with Lahore. I still miss being in this city when I am away. The familiar road bumps, traffic jams, no one listening to the wardens, endless traffic snarls at peak hours, shopping sprees amidst complaining customers, food stalls with marinated chicken on display and coal crackling on the side for barbecue, innocently polluting the air – everything adds to the madness of this city that makes us fall in love with it every day.

Big outdated billboards on buildings make it impossible for one to get a glimpse of the sky even on the clearest of days. The canal is lit only on special occasions. I can hardly see any butterflies in the city or any fireflies, yet the city is rich in heritage and poetry. Sadly, not many are interested in exploring those any longer.

The oldies often recall the old Lahore - peaceful and perhaps less chaotic. I often wonder, however: what if it is the endless chaos of this city that makes us fall in love with it? Whatever it is, it often takes several cups of tea during the course of a day just to get by. Here’s to more and better tea in this crazy beautiful city of ours.


The writer is a freelance journalist



More From Shehr