Malayalees and their Chayakada

The rains have hit the ground, a distinct earthy smell brews in the air. There is a breath of fresh air. The season has begun to change.

The splash of puddles, honking cars, people rushing and naughty school kids enjoying the downpour, splashing (dirty) water at each other. People try to clad themselves in raincoats and take protection inside their umbrellas. Some seem to silently enjoy the cool misty air and the sudden darkness the rain brings in. A cherished memory for everyone who loves the rain.

Cheta, oru Chaya : Nalla kadupathil, maduram korachu

Amidst this, in a distant corner, with the tarpaulins half leaking, a bunch of humans uninterrupted with the chaos enjoy a hearty conversation about their favorite movie or their contention on a political issue sipping on their favourite tea and holding the mandatory snack in hand. Whilst others offer the role of a listener, a few others stand outside and sip their tea in content.

Chayakada scenes sketched by an artist- Courtesy Cyriac Panamkuzha

A place where intellectual conversations spar, debates are held, holds the coveted database of the entire neighborhood and where the rich and poor are treated equally. It sums up any Chaya kada you see around, lead by the man who seem to have multiple hands serving you Chaya and kadi(snacks like vada, bonda, bajji) at the same time instructing his assistant to clear the plates. His wit and charm has worked to his advantage of gaining loyal customers.

A scene well represented in reel and real life. From conspiracies to the eureka moments in a movie have been set in the backdrop of a Chaya kada. How the script transforms this place as a conspirators den that unfolds the dark and heinous crimes or it creates the perfect ambience for the actor to come up with the solution. The plot changes and the audience is in for a surprise. The prominence of this small space and the deep connection it holds to the people is well defined. The Chaya kada can outline the locality, the people and their traits.

A typical chayakada scene in Malayalam movies- Where gossip is shared and conspiracies are stirred.

You could click a picture and replace any chaya kada, the details remain the same. For a Malayali, Chaya is an emotion. It quenches their soul. In iterations they have spread far and wide quenching the evening thirst of tea for Malayalis across the globe.

Your visit to Kerala will not be complete if you haven’t stopped at a tea shop, stood outside, had a pazhampori and complimented the man who swayed the glass up and down to give you the best, frothiest chaya. The ever smiling and charming chetan will accept your compliment and also give you a free lecture. It’s all worth the time, for his description can amaze you and helps paint a beautiful picture of his life.

A modern day Chayakada

The broken structure, the unmatched stools and benches, haphazard posters, the ever brewing samovar and the tea cups graciously numbers the years they happily served chaya to their customers.

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