Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Kitli: Much more than just Tea

Everyone may not know what I’m referring to, so in public interest, I will first explain what a Kitli is. A Kitli is the roadside stall that serves tea. That is at least the basic definition of what it is and what it does. It is, in my opinion, much more than what it appears to be. It is not only made up of the guy who makes and serves tea; rather it is the gathering of peoples, the makings of a family, the mixing of cultures, a potpourri of thoughts, the generator of ideas, the stirring of emotions and somewhere perhaps the beginning of a revolution.

Image Courtesy: Joel George.

I know that above sentence must have taken you by surprise but kindly bear with me while I attempt to clear my thoughts and explain my point. The kitliwala does not only sell tea, but also cigarettes, minor snacks and a lot of information and local gossip by extension.

The Kitli is therefore...

A Social platform. People from anywhere and everywhere gather in one place, not with the particular intention of mingling but it is something that happens automatically among those who are frequent visitors to a particular kitli. Exchanging common courtesies like passing the tea, holding the plate, lighting a cigarette and asking for change often lead to conversations, sharing of incidences, common friends, gossip, fun, fights and more often than not, a closer bond among those kitli-goers. After a few visits, even the kitli owner is familiar with the order you usually place, your brand of cigarette and whether you have cash to pay him or not!

A Newsroom. Kitliwalas subscribe to at least three different newspapers for their customers. At least the ones I visit do. Customers often ask for the papers while sipping their morning tea or while chatting over their evening snacks. This leads to a lot of information being shared along with maskabuns and omelettes. People all over the place recount incidences of similar happenings in their part of the city and whether one realizes it or not, one does certainly become aware of what’s happening in their city simply by visiting the kitli.

A Platform for discussion. Students, employees, players, officers… all visit this place to discuss the most important aspects of what they do, what should they be doing, what is happening, what’s wrong with it and how it can be rectified. Groups of people gather at the kitli with a certain purpose too, though it may seem unlikely. These gatherings focus around certain subjects and often lead to strong or heated discussions/arguments within the group. But ultimately, everyone makes up with a hot cup of cutting chai and one cigarette being shared by everyone. Discussions here often lead to serious decisions by individuals and can affect their mindset. Opinions change, faith is reinforced, doubts arise and fate is changed all because of a talk at the innocuous roadside kitli.

This has been my experience at the kitli; you are welcome to share yours. It’s always good to hear stories, because after all, it is stories that make up this world, not atoms.

Image Courtesy: Joel George.