Thick fog blankets the area and bone-chilling weather leaves residents of the town shivering, and this, quite contrary to the start of the New Year when tourists and locals alike had likened the weather here to early ‘spring,’ given the bright sunshine and the pleasant weather.
And as the mercury plummets to 7 degrees Celsius or below now, people are fast rushing to the nearest eatery or ‘dokaan’ or the fast mushrooming cafes that sell some finest cuppa in the town. However, as the challenging weather has it, there is a competition of sorts when it comes to the tea (chyaa in local parlance) they serve, and interestingly, even though there are around 8-10 new cafes here and youngsters are fond of visiting them, it’s the “street tea” that has edged past everyone else.
“I ask Shankhar to add extra pepper to my cuppa, as it warms me up from within in a cold day like this,” says Saistha Sultan, a banker, as he sips from his small glass below the private bank he works in. “Shankhar Pandit is a 26- year-old man, married and recently blessed with a baby boy.
The day he became a father, his happiness was such that he brewed the tea with excess love and happiness and we didn’t have to pay for it,” says DK Waiba, a journalist in the town. “The weather has become so nice that it prompts us all to drink tea. Here, people love tea, and weather like this adds to the love, while also given us good opportunity to make extra money,” says Shankhar, who has been selling tea for the past four years and who earns around Rs 400 daily.
Another popular tea-seller in the town is Santosh Subba, 57, (aka Gorkhey Dai). Gorkhey Dai has been selling tea in the town for the past 15 years and sets up his stall at Dambar Chowk early at 4:30 am, where joggers or those on morning walk stop by for the ‘special’ cuppa that he is known to make. “It’s getting colder by the day, and my customers are growing in number.
The weather has been a blessing in disguise for me,” says Subba. “He prepares tea with cow’s milk and not the packet milk, making it special,” says Kavita Chettri, a salesgirl who works near his stall. Gorkhey Dai gained more popularity after he sold tea to his customers even during the recent 104-day shutdown the Hills witnessed for the Gorkhaland demand.
As this correspondent talked with Subba, one Mani Chettri comes by and places his order for a cup of tea, while also adding a spoon full of sugar int the boiling kettle. “I take more sugar,” says Chettri, who works in a grocery store on Main Road, adding “There can’t be a better weather for a hot steaming cuppa.”
Chettri gone with his cup, a group of businessmen assembles at Dambar Chowk and soon start sipping tea. “We like drinking tea, and it’s too cold these days, we keep looking for tea-sellers everywhere we go around town,” said Gautam Pradhan.