By a dusty city road

stood a wooden cabin

decorated with garlands of

tobacco pouches

and cut-outs of

Jesus Christ and Lord Shiva.

Steeped in the fragrance

of sweet, milky tea, it glittered with

peg-sized glass cups

brimming with tea.

Men flock to the chai stall,

like animals escape to a

summer lake,

for their hourly coolant and smoke.

The owner sits inside,

a sweaty king

of this bunch of motley


who measure time and temperature

in bidi puffs and slurps,

while an empty future

awaits them,

like the relentless

Kutch desert.



Khatti: Oriya word that means informal conversation between people that often lasts for hours and is considered to be unproductive.

Bidi: Oriya word for a homespun cigarette.

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