Share Bazaar ki Chai – My Tryst with Calcutta’s Tea Theatre

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There are Calcutta sounds I itch to hear as soon as I set foot in the city. The fervent mixing of jhaal muri in a metal donga, the crunch of a puchka, the waft of Rabindra Sangeet from an old radio, and an occasional tinkle of the somewhat forgotten tram bell. On my most recent visit, there was a fascinating addition to my list of lovely Calcutta things.

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Share Bazaar (a.k.a. the Calcutta Stock Exchange) has been a very special part of my childhood. I have vivid memories of stacking up in an ambassador with my cousins to visit nana at work. Once he was done trading for the day, he’d take us around the city to spoil us rotten with sweets and toys. Back then, chai was for grownups.

Now that I know what the fuss is all about, I decided to dedicate a Sunday morning to the Share Bazaar ki chai with my enthusiastic Calcutta family.

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The stage was set. Under a light December haze, the street was lined with carts selling exotic fruit. On the walk to the chai stall at the far end, the crackle of toasting vegetable sandwiches served as background score.

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We reached a cave-like shop carved out of a building where the chaiwallahs took the stage. It was filled with steam from a dramatic chai-pouring sequence. The aroma of crushed spices and clay filled the air as clay kulhads were passed around.

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Served with a side of fluffy buttered toast sprinkled with sugar, Share Bazaar ki chai is quintessentially Calcutta. I floated home wearing a t-shirt full of crumbs and my biggest smile.

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