Masala Chai Tales – People & Conversations


10 am Tuesday morning. Table number 1. My favorite spot.

Two silent figures walked in. Without a word, they walked over to the ordering corner and mumbled out an order.  I tried not to hear. I tried not to overhear. The decibels were too low to be overheard. They sat down at a huge table meant for eight people. Never mind. I waited for them to talk. Either they were too sleepy, or they were just silent people. Two glasses of Cutting Chai appeared before them. Silent sips. Silent sips. No slurps like us, the uncouth lot who force out a lung full of air into the small glass and then slurp as if we are drinking an ocean.  Still silent sips. Not a word and they went out. I was stunned at their silence. Figures of silence!

You must know that the cafe Masala Chai both absorbs and exudes a lot of energy. Energy from all the huge groups of people who throng here. Office goers who are perennially in a hurry, moms always drained of their energy, the elderly who don’t know what to do with their time, people like me who want to watch all the other groups of people, bawling kids, running kids, and lots more. I love to watch these people and try to make stories just by watching them. Masala Chai is one of my favorite places to hangout and do just that. I can probably sit here for hours at my favorite table with endless cups of chai and watch all my fellow chai drinkers there. Of course, only if the kid is at school.

This beautifully cozy place is also a thriving epicenter of conversation. I don’t eavesdrop because its a sin. I just let my auditory canals do the only job they can do.  They pick up strains of conversation which are loud enough for the place anyways. You really can’t blame me if I note down what I watch and what I hear. Today is one of those happy days when I’m here writing.

Ok, now back to people watching.

Two women came in. Tall, hefty, they seemed too big for the quaint shop.  Nevertheless, everyone seems miniature when it comes to the craving for chai. They sat at the table next to me. One of them went over to order while the other one seated comfortably. In a few minutes, a plate of Omelette and two earthenware cups of chai were placed on their table. While a lot of incoherent talk happened here, another guy outside the shop seemed to be walking by in a hurry. He crossed the shop, walked back, seemed to be in a double mind to enter, looked strayed, looked at his watch, and with a ‘what the hell’ attitude, came in. He was carrying a ‘man bag’ as Joey from Friends would say. Impatient from the hurry, he ordered a ‘chai to go’ while tapping at the ordering counter with his fingers. The tut, tut, tut, tut, tut, tut from his finger tapping hurry continued until a paper cup was given to him. Off he went, and the constant ‘tuts’ of the shop died down.

Even before the guy-in-a-hurry had entirely moved out of my line of vision, a pair of zebra striped t-shirts walked in. They took the table opposite to me. They were wearing almost identical tees. One of them went over to place an order, and turned and looked back at me a couple of times. He had this quizzical look on his face. I turned back to my laptop. He placed an order and sat with his friend/colleague. Even before he had completely sat down, he decided to go out to the nearby grocer, and in a few minutes walked back in with a packet of spiced peanuts.  I wanted to go over and tell him ‘hey, I got one of these packets yesterday. I ate the peanuts too. They are very fattening, you know,’ but I held back my urge to do that. Sandwiches and chai were delivered at their table. One of them spoke of how his company’s stocks soared within a few months of his joining the firm, while the other ate in silent affirmation of the discourse. He threw in a few sniggers and a few strains of laughter to massage the already inflated speaker. Colleagues, definitely.

Again, two women entered. One of them was talking, and the other was listening. I couldn’t hear a sound from the woman talking. I didn’t know what her voice was like. I saw her lips move in fervent animation, but I didn’t hear a sound. And then I noticed something! She was wearing a shirt, and I had the same one. I hate it when I see someone else wearing the same shirt that I have. I wanted to run away from there. But I sat on, my lemon tea was too nice to be left alone.



I turned to see a United Colors of Benetton walk in. But I didn’t see any colors on him. He was in white. There was not an iota of colors on him. Possibly all the colors had united to form white. Thats what White is, correct? United colors? And his rich cologne wafted out to mask all the sweet smell of the food around. Aargh!

By this time, the zebra-striped tshirts had left, and the two women mentioned above substituted for them at the opposite table. In the meanwhile, United Colors had already taken a seat and also taken out his sunglasses. He put them on and pulled the newspaper from the next table. Suddenly, a group of professionals came in. A lot of friendly chatter and laughter happened. In contrast to the first two figures of silence who had come in, these people were the figures of speech.  Laughter flowed freely and confusion happened on who-wants-what-chai and finally someone ordered. I noticed United Colors trying to make his way out with a grim ‘excuse me.’  The whole talking group sat at a big table. 4 guys and 5 women. Two women talked of watching a video of a marriage in which the groom had accidentally fallen down during the wedding. And then they cracked up again. One of the guys looked very friendly and was the story teller of the group. He talked of Leonardo DiCaprio and the Oscars, and the rest of the group laughed animatedly. They decided to change their seats and went outside the cafe to stand and have their discussion.

I noticed I had already had three glasses of cutting chai and one mug of lemon tea by now. I checked the time and realized it was time to pick up the kiddo from school. Off I went, happy, and looking forward to another day of people watching here.

If you haven’t read my introductory post on Masala Chai (my favorite chai shop in the neighborhood), do read it here.

Also, watch out for my next write-up on Masala Chai.


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