BIRGUNJ: Brewing and drinking tea started thousands of years ago in China. It came to Nepal only a few hundred years ago but embedded itself quickly into Nepali culture. Nepali tea grown in Illam and Jhapa has become popular in both national and international markets. Many tea bars have started opening up all across the country where people drink tea to a myriad of conversation topics. Birgunj is no different. If you go around Mahabirsthan or Adarswaisthan Mainroad during the early mornings, you can see a cluster of tea shops on footpath catering to the need of their early-rising customers. These tiny shops have become hubs for critical chitchat amongst the locals.
These tea-shops, populated with people from different walks of life, are bustling with conversations of varying topics like local and national politics, yoga, share market investments, real-estate businesses, development agendas and many more. These tiny tea shops have turned into an essential part of the daily lives of the residents of Birgunj.
A diverse group of people visit these tea shops every day. While one of them could be a early-morning jogger, resting at the stop, others could be urban employees making a pit-stop at the junction for a quick morning update. Everybody wants to start their day with a cup of hot tea and warm conversation with their fellow tea drinkers, discussing topics related to all sectors.
“We gather here to discuss the share market for about an hour every morning,” Sanyog Shrestha who was among 10 other tea drinkers at Mahabirsthan Chowk. “After 9:00 AM, however, we disperse to our own respective jobs. We all come from various fields and do different jobs.”
“These tea shops have become a place for sharing everything from personal life stories to business ideas,” says Banker Rajesh Gupta. “We talk about politics, day to day happenings, development of our community space, etc,” added Devanand Prasad Kalawar. For him, this has turned into a habit. In a similar vein, Suman Kumar Singh also likes to spend his morning by the footpath tea stalls. He expressed, “Both seniors as well as youth of the community come here to share their experiences. This constant exchange of knowledge and ideas keeps everyone entertained and informed.”
Meanwhile, another group at the inner route Adarsanagar also shares similar experiences, as they sip their hot tea from small clay bowls. “People come and talk about which political party to join, where to meet during the evening, what to do during their holiday and so on,” informed a local business man Dipak Tabewala. Sambhu Agrawal, on the other hand, thinks that these tea shops are not the only place to hang out and talk about the day’s activities but believes the discussions here can influence the daily life of Birgunj. The conversations create a distraction from the constant stress of life.
It’s not that these people don’t get to drink tea at home. “It has become a habit and I feel like something is missing in my life if I don’t come here for tea,” explains Rajkumar Patel. Each professional group has their own favorite tea shop. Mahabirsthan attracts share market investors; Adharsanagar, business tycoons; and Birtha attracts medicine men and medical representatives.
Tea shops have found a place in the hearts of the people of Birgunj. They have turned into beacons where conversation pours out of the people’s mouths as easily as tea is poured out of kettles. It is evident people do not visit these shops only for the tea but also for the conversations they get to have with their friends.