100 Days in India Project

Chai Stall in Delhi at night

45/ 100 Drinking Chai with the Police

Having been in the company of the Railway Police for nearly an hour, during which time we had managed to write one short letter together, everyone seemed to be feeling less tense, except for the numerous bemused-looking detainees scattered around the office behind us.

The police were taking a genuine interest in our trip and wanted to hear more about life back home in Scotland. Of course, this couldn’t be done officially without a cup of spicy chai in hand so one of the policemen was sent to the office door whereupon he whistled out into the vastness of the station, summoning a poor wee guy who looked absolutely petrified. He was a young chap, probably in his teens, and he was carrying a large stainless steel urn full of what could well be the national drink of India.

Clearly far more worried about being in the presence of the police than we were he gingerly set down four small glasses, opaque with an accumulation of years of scratches. He carefully put them on the desk next to a very large open book and proceeded to pour out the hot milky drink. The process was slightly terrifying to watch as he was so nervous that his hands were shaking badly and the small glasses they like to use to serve tea are not a big target to hit, especially with a heavy tea urn. I should point out that the stainless steel tea urn also had a red-hot charcoal burner attached to the base. There was a lot of potential for disaster.

Luckily for him he managed to complete his task without spilling the chai over the biggest ledger I have ever seen. It was clearly the most important book in the whole office and took pride of place in the centre of the desk. It looked like the book had recorded every criminal incident that had taken place in the whole of Agra since the city was founded. It’s nice to know that now we are recorded in there too.

Once the tea was poured he was sent away without payment. I always wondered whether he ever got paid by the police, or perhaps it was something he had to do to avoid trouble. Either way the tea was wonderful and would be the first of many that day, as was usual during our journey around India.