Photo Story


On the way back from the old town, in one of the branch streets that connect MI Road with xxx street, albeit in a detour, and from which it goes into the alleys of the marble carvers, I am looking for a chai stall and an opportunity to sit down for a moment. Again, I have let myself drift through the streets for hours, past the Hawa Mahal and the City Palace. Although, without exception, all tourists are funneled through this part of town (in fact this is besides Amber the only corner of this city in which many, or rather, comparatively many Western visitors and now also Indian tourists can be seen at all) – there is practically no opportunity to sit down for a soft drink, tea, or coffee somewhere, let alone relax for a while …

I’ve long been in the part of the city where almost exclusively muslims live, with repair shops for bicycles or other small machines next to slaughterhouses whose displays consist of chopped off cow feet or sheep’s legs, embedded in the soft screeching of hacksaws next to the scooter horns and that Chop Chop of the butchers’ cleavers … Here finally there is a chai shop, a rickety bench in front and a nice-looking chai-wallah behind an equally fragile looking stand where he boils the tea on a hissing gas flame and where little steel containers with tea, sugar, spices are neatly lined up beside a tray with freshly (albeit in rather not so clean water) glasses and a stash of paper cups for passersby. But what strikes me most is the dark room behind the entrance, in which the glow of a lamp hung from the low ceiling falls softly onto a carrom board, around which a group of young men are sitting, concentrated looks, acknowledging the shooter’s precise index finger snaps with an approving look after he has catapulted the fifth puck in a row into one of the corner holes, making skillful use of other pucks as well as the railing without the red queen disappearing as well, which would result in point deductions … The game is played in turn, but when asked to participate, I decline respectfully, pointing out that I haven’t played far too long and would most certainly ruin their fun.

I’m happy about the light that gives the whole scene the character of an illegal gambling den, where instead of whiskey chai is sipped from tiny paper cups between rounds, which rarely take longer than a few minutes – the players are too practiced, too fast the pucks that snap across the board, which one of the men makes smoother after each round with some chalk powder lying on the edge of the hanging lamp …

I sit down for a cup of tea on the bench in front of the door. The chai-wallah prepares fresh tea, carefully chopping ginger and cardamom, pours the glass especially full while a young, somewhat strange-looking man stares at me wide-eyed and – under the laughter of the elderly men sitting on the other bench – bursts out in amazement as I with the expression of a magician zip my trouser legs to my shorts … With unambiguous gestures and grinning broadly, they indicate that he is nuts, crazy, not quite right in the head … He’s still shaking his head in amazement and elation at this unheard-of, never-before-seen miracle after I have paid for my chai and leave …

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