Chai charity!

There is no charcha here, only chai, finds out Rajasthan Post when its correspondent meets Gulabji Chaiwala, who has been quenching the tea-thirst of the poor, the needy and sick for over 60 years now

For Narendra Modi, the chai pe charcha became a hit number and a stepping stone for his political stardom. But for Gulabji Chaiwala, 90, of Jaipur, chai has always been an integral part of his life. For him it is rather chai pe kharcha but he doesn’t mind. He feels his serving free chai to the poor establishes a direct link with the God and gives him immense “peace of mind”.

And undaunted by price rise, recession, inflation, Gulabji has been doing this since 1946 unfailingly.

Gulab Singh Dheerawat, popularly known as Gulabji Chaiwale, has a small chai shop on Jaipur’s famous and commercial lifeline of the city, Mirza Ismail (MI) Road. On an average nearly 150 people throng his tea shop for a refreshing sip and that too free. Most of these free chai drinkers are poor and needy. Many a times, the number even goes up to 250. Gulabji serves them with four slices of bread too, with help from some philanthropists.
Everyday 6 O’Clock in the morning, a long queue before his tiny, inconspicuous shop indicates that Gulabji has started his daily routine, starting with serving free chai to the poor, needy and sick.
But by no means, does he encourage begging. He says : “Our purpose is to serve, not to increase the number of beggars.” If any able-bodied comes seeking free food, he tells them in a polite but firm voice to earn their daily bread with “purusharth” (hard work). He says : “I tell them “mera kaam seva ka hai, bhikhari banane ka nahin.”

He is happy that many of them listened to him and are now working. They are grateful to him that he directed them towards the right path. Many rag pickers, beggars and drunkards in the vicinity who used to create trouble have also reformed, he says.

Born in Sarna chod, near Niwaru, not very far from the state capital Jaipur, Gulabji Chaiwale did his basic schooling at the village chatshala. He shifted to Jaipur when his father got posted at the excise office here. Disinterested in studies, his father suggested he should do some small business. He opted for this tea shop.

In 1946, in the pre-independence era, there was a civil supplies office at MI Road, which later came to be known as state motor garage after the merger of princely states. Gulabji started his tea shop near the Civil Supplies office, serving tea to the staff.

But his chai charity started sometimes later. He says his Guru had asked him to offer the “pahla cup athithi ko and this he did so by offering it to the extremely poor. He doesn’t know how the number gradually increased. “By the grace of God, it has continued successfully so far,” he adds.

“My Guruji had no ashram and was a family man and he gave me the guiding principle of my life, “purusharth se kamao, parmarth me kharch karo”(earn with your full potential and spend it for others’ wellbeing). Gulabji is practicing what his Guru preached and he says it gives him immense “peace of mind.”

“I used to sell a cup of chai for just 2 paise,” he recalls. “I used to buy 40 kg milk for Rs. 11. Now one kg milk costs Rs. 46. But I continue to do what I started. I feel happy when I see smiles on the faces of people after drinking a cup or glass of tea.”

Recalling the earlier days, he says the MI Road named after the versatile Prime Minister of Sawai Mansingh was not so crowded or busy in those days. The most posh colonies of today like Bani Park, C-Scheme were coming up then and MI Road was witnessing the emergence of a new Jaipur, the Pink City.

Gulabji doesn’t have any children and has raised his sister’s sons as his own. They are now well to do. One lives in their native village and the other in Jaipur.
His wife lives with them but he prefers to live in his small rental room near his teashop. But he doesn’t forget to send a fixed amount to his wife every month and makes it a point to visit the village school on every 15th August and 26thJanuary. He didn’t study himself but realizes the importance of education in life so he motivated locals to build the village school.

Most part of his day is either spent at the shop or at the opposite Yantreshwar Mahadev temple. He has a nostalgic affiliation with the temple also. There is an interesting story behind the name, he says. “When the state motor garage came into existence, all the staff, drivers and cleaners contributed for this temple. The drivers gave one rupee and cleaners 50 paise. The contributors hailed from all communities—Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians—and it is still runs in the name of Motor Garage temple committee. Hence, the name Yantreshwar i.e., the lord of mechanics.

A lean and thin figure, soft spoken and calm, Gulabji doesn’t look his 90 odd years. He says he is never worried for tomorrow. He has never felt any financial crisis in his life.“Sab maalik ki kripa hai. Jo bhi kaam karo Parmatma ke naam se karo, phal accha hi milega.” (whatever you do, do it in the name of God for best results.)

He has undergone two major surgeries in recent years and a third one is due. But he doesn’t want to go for it. He would rather pray and offer his chai.

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