Cup of Chai & the Sparrow

A very happy new year to all my readers.

Today morning, I got up with a warm inner feeling. It is the first day of the new year after all. What exciting things to do? The best thing, I could think of, was to walk down to a neighborhood kiosk and have a cup of piping hot tea with milk (or better known as masala chai) and enjoy some early morning photography. Packed a camera with a normal lens and I was on the road, striding towards the tea-stall.


(Chained – a symbolic photograph as to what I have resolved for this year. More about this later)


New Year Morning

Early morning chilled wind, with the smell of frost and moist soil, hit my nose. This is one of the most refreshing smells that can be enjoyed in the early morning. The sun was still not up, though the sky was getting lighter in shade with every passing minute. I had planned on visiting a place of worship today morning with a friend but the plan did not work out since he had planned on leaving very very early. Too early for starting a comfortable new year! … and I am not lazy! While I walked ahead, enjoying this morning was also no less than the planned visit. There was fresh air, early morning light, chirping birds, and an occasional exchange of smile with the morning-walkers, who are still keeping up with their old new year resolutions of keeping fit.

The tea-stall or the kiosk was just around the corner. Carrying a light camera and thought of hot drink on a cold winter morning, somehow adds a spark to one’s walk. I was going to have a sweet buttered bun along with the hot ‘chai’. No, it is not just Indian tea. It is a tea made in pure milk (no water added), with jaggery, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and ginger. Boiled for many long minutes to prepare the delicious creamy drink. The locals tend to call it the real tea and everything else made with water as ‘miser’s tea’.

Reached the corner. The stall was just round the bend. Luckily there was no crowd waiting for the tea. People usually could be seen standing on the other side of the street as well and their presence meant a long wait. I took the right turn and the stall was visible. It was closed. Locked! Not a soul there. Maybe the owner loves to celebrate the new year by sleeping late.

With the thought of hot chai already well set in my mind and a camera dangling from my shoulder, I was going to have my tea, come what may.


Plan B

Just a little way up, towards the hills, there was another tea stall that used to make a similar kind of drink. It was not too close so I thought of driving up there. And I repeat… I am not lazy. Retraced my steps back to my place, took out the car and I was on my way to this other tea stall. The road was vacant. Everyone seemed to be enjoying their new year morning, in their warm bed. Maybe the early morning risers were just me (who was hunting for a hot cup of tea) and my friend (who had gone on his trip early in the morning). Sometimes when I drive, even with my windows down, I miss my bike (Bike or Car). Today was one such morning.

On reaching near the second tea-stall, I parked my car on one side. The owner had made a small shack next to a mountain stream, some distance from the road. I remember enjoying boiled eggs too at his shack, apart from the sweet creamy chai. Today my mind was set on buttered bun and tea. The shack was visible from the road, it seemed to be open. Walked down to his place. He had a welcoming smile on his face and wished me for a happy new year ahead. The tea was getting ready and so I had a few spare minutes. Just a little ahead was an old abandoned bridge. A witness of the times gone by, in the same way as photographs are.


Abandoned Bridge

(Abandoned Bridge – Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G lens. Captured at f/8 in aperture priority mode. Shutter speed 1/50. Auto ISO set the ISO to 280)


The bridge led to a trail in the forest across the stream. Should I go to the forest and capture some landscapes? The smell of the tea was already there in the air, so I walked back to the shack. I was the only customer it seems. The shopkeeper poured my a generous amount in a glass. Chai is best enjoyed in either an earthen (clay) cup or a ‘glass’ glass. No fancy bone-china or tea-cups with saucers can do justice to such a drink. And it has to be really really sweet. No exceptions there either.

We both sipped on to the hot tea while he heated up some buns in a pan. Butter easily melts and sinks into these warm buns.

A group of sparrows was playing on the wire which brought electricity to this shack, to light up the sole dangling bulb.  Sitting there on the wooden bench, protected from the cold wind, while sipping on the hot tea, the chirping of these sparrows was music to my ears. One of them came and settled down on the bench opposite me, cautiously looking around. The shopkeeper had slightly roasted the buns and applied a thick layer of butter too. When he brought the plate with buns to me, the sparrow got scared and flew away.

Later when I was once again lost in thought. I counted the blessings that I had received in the year gone by. Everything that happened seemed to have happened for good, except maybe my putting on weight. Here I was going to add some more to that with the heavily buttered buns. In the year gone by, I had captured many good photographs. The number of professional assignments that I did had gone up and so had my earnings. I left my regular job and now I feel like a free soul, working on my own terms and conditions. My other sources of income are now starting to pick up the pace and with that, I have a feeling of financial security. I have a loving family and some good friends (including ones who love to get up early in the morning and also those who have their breakfast after I have had my afternoon lunch). Life is good. Tea was better.

While I sipped on the hot drink, the little sparrow once again felt a rush of adrenaline and settled down on the bench near to me. Was it interested in the camera? Was it angry that I had not photographed it?  No, it was not the buns! The sparrow had come earlier too when the buns were still on the pan.

The shopkeeper took out some bread crumbs and threw them near the wire where all the sparrows were sitting. They all flocked down, including the one that had come into the shack. Aha! It seems that we were not the only ones enjoying the new year. The sparrows too had their share of good breakfast. The one who had approached the shack got lost in the group. They all look the same to me at a glance. The shopkeeper explained that I had come into the shack at the time when he usually feeds these birds. He had got delayed a little in feeding them while he made tea. The little bird had come to show its anger at me. That is definitely not a good way to start a new year. I offered some crumbs from my bun too and thankfully just one of them came back to near me and enjoyed these crumbs. I guess it was the same sparrow who had forgiven me.


(Abandoned Auto-rickshaw – I would have enjoyed my tea sitting inside this one. Captured with my 50mm lens set at f/8, 1/50 sec exposure at ISO 400 with a glass soft-focus filter screwed on. Post-processed in Affinity Photo)


Now comes a vital part of the new year tradition. These are the things that are supposed to keep me in check (chained actually).

Resolutions for this year –

  • Reduce my weight by 10KG (without cutting down on buttered buns and hot chai)
  • Capture more and more photographs, and print them too (Do read this – Fading Memories)
  • Write some more articles (which anyway I will be doing and so this is an easy new year resolution to keep)
  • Not to buy any photography equipment in this year (to my family, in case they are reading – a new photo printer does not count)
  • Cut down on my belongings and in the process reduce the clutter (Clutter that builds up). No specific number to the items that I may have but I’ll reduce down to a bare minimum.

If I remember about this list at the end of the year, I’ll refer to it and write on what I was able to achieve.


So, my friends. Have the wonderfully and deliciously sweet drink called chai and remember all the good times you have had in the year gone by. Enjoy the year to come. This new year, I wish everyone with countless moments that get captured in the minds as precious memories.

3 thoughts on “Cup of Chai & the Sparrow

  1. Dear shivam. You continue to impress me with your thoughts and amazing photography and how much further you can evolve into..


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