Petty Tea shop - Pool of Hearsay and Real News

Understanding the tea shop's role in the village

The importance of the tea shop to village life...

Kerala has a number of petty tea-shops in the interior of villages.  These tea-shops are known as "Suryodaya Chayaappeedika".  Suryodaya Chayaappeedika means the tea-shop that stops functioning on sunrise.

Such tea-shops function till 7.30 or 8.00 (the sunrise time).  A shop will have 2 or 3 benches and equal number of desks.  Many of the Suryodaya Chaayappedikas serve only tea – black tea or milk tea.  Some serve Poottu (or say Pittu) and Kadala (Bengal gram/cicer arictinum) stew or Pappad at the most.  No other eatable inventory.

The customers start coming for tea around 5 or 5.30 in the morning  Before 6.30 or at the most 7 all the  tea-sippers would have come.  All are permanent customers.  The shop-owner prepares the plus of tea only to the number of customers who used to buy.  Like-wise powder-tea (leaf-tea is not used as it is costlier than powder-tea) and sugar is bought and kept ready for the use of a day only.  No non-permanent customers used to intrude into the shop for a cup of tea and hence no excess stock is needed.

The presence of 3 or 4 customers prompts one among them to start unbundling the news he heard or the events he witnessed after leaving the shop previous day.  It may be a family quarrel, a love-affair, a toddy-shop kick-up, an accident, a murder, anything which has village news value.  Each and everyone present un-bundles his own stock.  In effect, the shop turns into a pool of fresh and reliable news or hearsays and arguments and counter-arguments follow on the merits and demerits of the matter till a news paper puts a full-stop.

By 6 or 6.30 newspaper boy with one leg on the ground and the other leg on the pedal tosses a newspaper into the shop and vanishes.  Two or three customers jump from the seat to pick up the paper.  The lucky speedy one gets hold of it.  He reads the banner-headed news first.  Reading is over, it is now the turn of postmortem of the news content  by almost all present.  Each expresses his own view according to his whims or political leaning.  No fear, no one is there to edit.  Almost all important news is read and subjected to postmortem.  This process goes on for at-least one hour.

Newspaper filtering is over, one by one starts leaving the shop.  If anyone says I may give today’s cash tomorrow, the shop owner shows no leniency and shouts if no cash don’t come.  The customer leaves unmindful as if he has heard nothing.

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