Irani chai with an old friend

A new story for Kaitley:

Juwairiyah was my old classmate from Secondary School, it was serendipitous that we had met now. I was living in the Old City for a project and my trusty blender had broken down. A neighbour had suggested the Modern Works repair shop next to our office printing press in Laad Bazaar. I lugged my blender there the next day. 

“Adaab, I am Juwairiyah, the owner here. It’s festival season and we are short staffed. I will see to it for you.”

The workshop boy got me a glass of tea while I waited. 

I am not the one to talk to strangers, but I remembered a Juwairiyah from our class, two long plaits with red ribbon, a long blue skirt. She had refused to go on stage for our school assembly out of fright. To motivate her, the teacher had reminded her of my shining performance on stage the day before!

Now she had a single plait coiled at the nape of her head and she looked like nothing could frighten her. She set to work straight away, and in less than half an hour she had fixed the blender up.

“Here you go.”

I asked reluctantly, “Did you go to school at KV Picket in Secunderabad?”


“Saldhana madam, class teacher?”
“That’s right!”

We both could not believe that we were meeting after more than 2 decades.

“Come let’s go have a cup of Irani Chai.”


“Ammi, where is my chai?”
“Here. Now please fix that mixie blade before you leave.”
“I am getting late for college..”

Juwairiyah adjusted her scarf, and ran into the kitchen. It was almost past the time when she rushed into the bus stop outside. In a household of 3 other older boys, somehow she had ended up the house handyman. Mixie, air cooler, faulty switchboards, nothing escaped her ministrations. Her fame as a skilled mechanic was now spread all across their neighbourhood. 


We sat down at a wooden bench in the old Irani cafe. They knew her, we were served two small cups of milky tea, and sweet cream. Khara biscuits. 

An ancient looking man with a prayer cap was reading his newspaper. He nodded at my classmate as we had sat down.

“So?” She smiled. 

I told her that I was delighted to see her. “But how come a mechanic’s repair shop?”

“Well they sent me to study economics. But it was always my desire to run this shop. When Abba passed away, none of my engineer brothers were interested in it. So I took over and no one batted an eye.”

We smiled and called for another round of the chai. 

How do I make it?

Boil water and spices (star anise, cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns) for 5 minutes.
Add milk and cream and simmer for another 5 minutes. 
Add tea leaves and simmer for another 3 minutes. Strain and add sugar. Eat biscuits. 

Trust me, vary the times as you see fit. Essentially it has to end up a rich, creamy tea. 

But I think the point of this tea is to actually take yourself off to an old Irani cafe, it could be either in Hyderabad or Mumbai. Preferably with an old friend. 


2 thoughts on “Irani chai with an old friend

  1. This narration is as tasty as an Iranian tea. Anyone from Hyderabad could have a similar experience, a touching one.
    Thank you

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