We all love chai be it any hour of the day but have you noticed a glint in the eyes of the tea-seller. With a lot of love and warmth, they make garam chai and provide a parle-g biscuit, you must be thinking what is so unique about Pillai. Pillai is not like the rest of ‘chai wallahs’ in the city.
Since 1960 he has been seeing the university grow, neither the trees nor the walls have witnessed this transmission and it has been 60 years as of now that he has been selling tea in the campus premise.
The 75-year old aspired to join the Indian Navy and that made him come all the way from Mavelikara village in Alleppey district of Kerala to Vizag, but destiny had some other plans for him. He said, “ I picked up my suitcase and came to Vizag with the dream to join the Naval forces but I was rejected in the medical test for having a flat foot and it is then with the help of my uncle I set up the tea stall for livelihood.”
Initially, he worked in the central canteen then moved from one place to another on the campus till he finally settled down near VS Krishna Central Library, and now it has been about eight years. It is not only students that flock in to have the chai but also people working in different companies start their day by having Pillai’s chai.
He doesn’t only sell chai but is quite smart and replies back to the customer in good English. With the constant change in style and attitude of students what remains constant is his rapport with students that seems so seamless. “In a career spanning for 60 odd years, I have served tea to 15 Vice-Chancellors of AU, excluding CR Reddy and S. Radhakrishnan. Also to Venkaiah Naidu, Vice-president of India, former DGP HJ Dora, former TDP MP late Yerran Naidu, while they were students of AU ” says Pillai.
Certain students are so fond of him that they refer to the stall as ‘Pillai Canteen’ and come every day to have some Garam Chai after reading inside the library. One such student is Angad Kaur who aspires to become an IAS officer reads for about 5 hours and then has tea. “Drinking tea at the Pillai canteen just refreshes my mind especially with the 2 Rs biscuit. It is economical too for students like us,” he says.
Despite his two daughters standing on their own feet, one of his daughters is a practicing lawyer and the other works as the professor in a reputed MBA college in Hyderabad, still, he continues to sell tea. He says “Pouring, Stirring and serving tea is my labor of love and I will keep doing it for the rest of my life. Initially, it was mandatory to work as I had to ensure that my daughters are independent and now I do it as it is my labor of love”.