Learning to enjoy a cup of chai in a dhaba
I can proudly say that my dad has now become an expert as a tourist travelling the less travelled roads of India (which means going to amazing hotels which are empty because difficult to access, being the only foreigners in the trains etc.). And here is the story that allows me to say that…
The other day my father was having a conversation with a fellow tourist, a French woman in her fifties, visiting India because her daughter was doing an internship here. Otherwise she would have never come, she told us with honesty; not her cup of chai, India…
So my dad wants to test her “touristittude” and goes:
- Have you tried chai (the local beverage made of milk, sugar, and a bit of tea (and cardamom and ginger))?
- Yes, yes.
- But have you tried the real one? Like the one you drink on the side of the road?
- Yes, yes, of course!
- (My sceptical dad insists:) In the dhabas, these small dirty places serving dishes, authentic, tasty and cheap but prepared with complete despise for any hygienic rule? Are you sure?
- Yes, yes!!
- And did you pay more than 15 rupees for your chai?
- 15 rupees?? Of course we paid more!! Much more even!
- Ah! I knew it!! You didn't go to a dhaba!!
I sense a trauma here…
think my parents will never forget the day I threw a fit in Rajasthan because we had to pay 150 rupees for a watery chai in a tourist hotel by the side of the road!! After that our driver only took us to the shadiest places, where you get the best chai! On top of this, if there is one safe thing to have in India, it is the chai, boiled and boiled again…
And here is what happens when foreigners go get a chai in a dhaba in a small town of Madhya Pradesh (they are fixed like if they were coming straight from Saturn):
And here is what the dhaba down my building in Mumbai looks like: