Laxman Rao, The Chaiwala Who Is Also A Novelist And Playwright
Image Credit: Laxman Rao at Mister Chai

Imagine having tea at a tea stall whose owner has penned 25 books in Hindi and has even been hosted by Indira Gandhi at Teen Murti House along with receiving accolades from President Pratibha Patil, that’s the story of Laxman Rao. This 70-year-old chaiwala shifted from Amravati to Delhi in 1975 at a very young age and from then till now he has written and published over 25 books and novels. Selling tea was a medium to fulfill his dreams. Rao has a bachelor's degree in Hindi, but his shot to fame was his play Pradhanmantri which he wrote after meeting Indira Gandhi. He feels Tea stall is the place where literature flourishes with all the conversations that happen around. And with his knowledge and zeal to learn more, it was a few years ago, when he was invited to Shangri-La Eros Hotel to join the hotel and since then he has been an eminent tea consultant and is a sought-after property of the hotel.

In a quick chit-chat with HTSlurrp he opens up about life in a glass of chai

What is your definition of chai?

Chai is not just a beverage; it is an experience that evokes a sense of comfort and warmth. It is a magical potion that blends flavours and emotions, creating a symphony of taste. Chai is a concoction of aromatic spices and rich black tea, brewed with love and care. Each sip carries the essence of tradition, culture and the stories of courage and dreams of a common man like me. It is not only a drink but also a connection to humanity, bringing people together, sharing tales and fostering bonds that last a lifetime. To me it also means passion and determination to achieve your dreams. 

You left Amravati in 1975 to pursue your passion. Tell us about your journey since then?

 In 1975, I left Amravati to chase my dream of writing. As a tea seller at first, I found inspiration in my customers' stories. Despite rejections, I persisted, publishing over 24 novels, plays, and essays that touched lives globally. Meeting the former President of India was surreal, and I realised the impact of my work on society. As a 'teacher of hearts,' I impart wisdom to young minds. Now, as a cherished tea consultant at Mister Chai & Tamra at Shangri-La Eros New Delhi, I share my passion and stories, leaving an indelible mark on guests' hearts. The journey has taught me perseverance and the magic of following dreams.

Tell us how you decided to self-publish your first novel in 1979?

 In 1979, after numerous rejections, I chose to self-publish my debut novel. Driven by a burning desire to share my stories, I invested my limited funds and sought local printers and bookbinders' assistance. Self-publishing was unconventional then, but I believed in my writing and took charge of my destiny. Though challenging, the satisfaction of seeing my book in print and connecting directly with readers made it worthwhile. This decision became a turning point, opening doors to opportunities I couldn't have imagined. Self-publishing taught me the value of taking risks and believing in one's abilities, shaping my journey as an author.

How and why did you feel the need to pen down your thoughts?

The need to pen down my thoughts arose from a deep desire to express myself and share the stories of the common men I encountered as a tea seller. Writing became a cathartic outlet, helping me make sense of my experiences and emotions. Through my words, I sought to connect with others, shedding light on life's realities. Self-publishing became a means to share my narratives directly with readers, bypassing barriers. Writing became my passion, allowing me to leave a lasting impact on the hearts of those who come across my work. It became a tribute to the common man and a way to make a difference in the world.

What is that one thing that holds you close to Delhi?

One thing that holds me close to Delhi is the profound sense of opportunity and transformation that this city offers me. From a tea seller at a roadside stall to an internationally recognised master of Chai and an award-winning author, my journey in Delhi has been nothing short of a dream come true. This city embraced my passion for writing and provided a platform to connect with readers from diverse backgrounds. The warmth of the people, the rich tapestry of cultures, and the inspiring stories I encountered here have all played a significant role in shaping my identity as a writer and a cherished tea consultant at Mister Chai & Tamra, Shangri-La Eros New Delhi.

As a chaiwalla what has been your most loved moment in the city?

As a chaiwalla, my most cherished moment in the city was the day I had the privilege of meeting the former President of India, Smt. Pratibha Patil, along with my family. It was an unforgettable experience that filled me with immense pride and gratitude. Standing in the grand corridors of the President's house, I realised the immense impact of my work on society and culture. That moment reaffirmed my belief in the power of determination and following one's dreams. It showed me that no matter where we come from, with passion and hard work, we can achieve extraordinary heights in life.

What tips will you share for aspiring writers?

 Aspiring writers, embrace your passion for storytelling and believe in your unique voice. Read voraciously, exploring diverse genres and styles to expand your perspective. Write regularly, even if it feels challenging, for practise sharpens your skills. Accept constructive criticism and be open to improvement. Stay persistent, for the path to success might be filled with rejections. Surround yourself with a supportive community of fellow writers who can offer encouragement and guidance. Don't be afraid to take risks and explore unconventional ideas. Remember, writing is a journey of self-discovery and growth, so enjoy every moment of the creative process. Trust in yourself and let your creativity flourish.

What special tip to brew that perfect masala chai?

The magic lies in the spices: freshly crushed ginger, aromatic cardamom pods, cloves, and a touch of cinnamon for that delightful warmth. For a hint of spiciness, a pinch of black pepper can be added. Add your choice of fragrant tea leaves, bring this delightful concoction to a boil, and then let it simmer for a few minutes, allowing the flavours to meld. Sweeten with sugar or honey as desired and let it steep for a final infusion of taste. Finally, strain the chai into cups and savour the aroma and invigorating taste of your homemade masala chai. Remember, it's an art, and a little experimentation can lead to the perfect cup that delights your senses.