Our modern dhabas

June 9, 2024

Our modern dhabas


hai aur baisti ka koi time nahin hota. That’s what my father used to say before he claimed his right to the latter.

Recently, a lot of chai XYZs have popped up in Lahore, especially in posh and almost-posh areas. This seems nice. People have a space to sit, talk, have some tea and eat. There’s dhishkoom dhishkoom music, live qawwali too (too loud for a casual hangout, by the way). There is this pseudo elite/ burger crowd — group of people (mostly guys) smoking all sorts of new carcinogens and competing to blow the thickest of smokes.

If you tell your parents how much you paid for a cup of chai, you’d better tell them also that you’re a billionaire or that you’re marrying rich, because only then this amount of money would make sense to them. Otherwise, “Ghar main iss say achhi chai mil jati hai” or “Paisay ko aag lagana koi inn say seekhay” is waiting for you; followed by “humaray zamanay mein paanch rupaye ka chai ka cup hota tha” (or maybe cheaper than that).

I believe this modern dhaba culture can be attributed to either a lack of recreational activities for the people or just the fact that adults like me can’t be hanging around in casual, ‘unhygienic’ spaces.

What would I post about, then? That Instagram story won’t look cool. Restaurants charge a lot, and rightfully. Ever notice the taxes?

Hanging out is a must-do for some people these days. Though there’s a growing trend of middle-aged people who’d rather conserve their energy, spend that in commuting to the gym, taking photos, working out a little, taking some more photos, posting them online, travelling back and then not sleeping till late at night and waking up tired the next day. The cycle continues.

People of another kind prefer the conversations, the laughter, the feeling of belonging and togetherness, with the added bonus of Rs 1,000-plus bill that these places will slap you with.

This is the new night life in metropolitan Lahore, the new culture. What else could you be doing — or could do — at the end of a week of ‘labour’ in an air-conditioned environment. There should be something physically engaging, or mentally stimulating. (It’s said that being around your kind of people does a lot of good for your mental health.)

But one thing does not makes sense to me. Chai has caffeine, so how do they get any sleep after late-night caffeine intake? Are they all like my father who will ask for a cup of tea at 11pm? Is my caffeine reaction wrong? Or is their ‘metabolism’ just too fast to beat the caffeine infusion in the bloodstream?

These days, the weather gets unbearable during the day. Soon it will be the same in the night as well. However, the amount of people who’d still sit outdoors and sip their chai, play Ludo, listen to the music, and plan their next startup will not diminish.

Not everyone wants to be alone or is antisocial. Maybe it’s just a hoax or a phase to isolate oneself briefly — for some quality me-time. Or maybe the chai maker at home wants someone else to make it for a change and they decide that it’s best that a professional handles it.

Finally, since hanging out will never go out of style, I just wish they start putting more comfortable furniture to sit on.

Daniyal Raza is a project manager in a technology company. He loves to hang out and try new food

Our modern dhabas