Indian railways tea saga
The alluring romance of tea and trains goes back to a time when posters with tea recipes went up on station walls. Tea is the quintessential of an Indian railway experience. There is a great diversity in the cries of ”chai garam chai,” “chai-chai,” ‘chai-a, chai-a, chai-a.”
The first major tea project for promoting Indian tea began with the Indian railways by the Indian Tea Association founded in 1881. After World War One, petty contractors were provided tea packets and kettles to serve tea at the chief railway junctions of Bengal, Punjab, and North West provinces. To promote the sale of tea, hoardings and posters displaying recipes of tea in the Indian languages were posted on railway platforms.
Tea that was vital commodity and significant of British imperialism in India, took on a desi version. Indian vendors customized the colonial recipes by adding more milk and sugar. The success of the project symbolized that tea drinking had arrived in India, even if only on trains, and railway stations. Tea was transformed into a legendary Indian phenomenon that sealed the relationship between India and tea for many of us, making it a saga of enduring romance and happy nostalgia.
The chaiwallah still continues to be the first person, a passenger hears on waking up in a train as he marches through the carriages with a metal kettle swinging in one hand and glasses in the other, calling out, ”chai-chai-chai.”