The rise and fall of a beloved chaiwala
HE rose from rags when his shop was renamed ‘The Singing Tree’. Selling tea became a secondary affair for 56-year-old Raju Saha. Setting up stalls at leading places like literary events, popular malls and food fests had become a regular thing.
Shooting for a documentary to short films, to leading newspapers coming almost every fortnight, he could be seen only in front of the camera.
And while all this was on, his shop was left carelessly — the way it should have been ideally — and managed by some workers. Raju da made tea only when a cameraperson was in front of him, shooting. He often said, “Aaj toh `8,000 ka chai becha, aaj toh `10,000 kamaya (Today, I made business of `8,000; today, I sold tea of `10,000)”.
Enemies grew in disguise, he says, and camouflaged themselves as friends in the crowd which was managed by his wife and his elder daughter.
The place had become a hub of singers and weed smokers and Raju Da, as he is popularly known, just entertained them. Complaints often poured from neighbours but he didn’t pay a heed, he says.
Municipal and police raids due to encroachment — as the shop gradually spread its wings for over 20 metres from a permissible limit — were common to Raju da which he used to handle once or twice a month quite casually.
Journalist Amit Ganguly recalled, “I miss being to TST. After sweating it out for hours on the cricket ground, it was always fun to sit there and chat with friends for hours over a cup of lemon tea, which I liked the most. There’s an emotional connection that’s always going to stay in my mind.”
Destruction this time — on January 10 — wasn’t like previous instances. Raju cried, telling us that perhaps this time he would not be able to rise again.
In the glory days the snap of director Imtiaz Ali used to be a topic of murmur among his customers, autographed menu of lyricist Javed Akhtar was also among the cutouts that glorified the wall among other articles.
“I used to bring all my guests from abroad to this happening tea stall. But days have changed and today they don't get the chance to taste Raju da’s beautiful preparations,” said Egle Januleviciute Raie Day, owner of an international travel agency.
Today, no one talks about him after his fall but tea lovers from across Delhi NCR travelled over 40 km to come to CR Park Market 1 just to enjoy a cup of “mohabbat”.
“Main chaaye nahi bechta, mohabbat bechta hu (I don’t sell tea, I sell love),” he often said.
Raju Saha became a famous chaiwala at Chittaranjan Park that many tea lovers in Delhi-NCR raved about.