The Tapri

by Ashish

I’m not a smoker meself; can’t stand the things.

But I’ve plenty of friends who smoke plenty of cigarettes, and they all have their favourite tapris.

Tapris being little ramshackle shops that sell cigarettes, paan, supaari and other assorted things. These shops are big enough for one, at most two people to squeeze into, behind the counter. The whole shop is literally not bigger than a box that will accomodate two standing people. Usually painted red, the shopkeeper has a little counter open in front of him, and the three walls that surround him are dotted with little shelves which contain a bewildering variety of cigarettes. Brands that you have never heard of, brands that I personally wish nobody had heard of, small satchets of supari, chewing gum, boiled sweets and matchboxes.

The counter in the front is usually stocked with a large bronze plate, on which are kept little boxes that go into the making of paan. Don’t ask me how they make paan – each little box, it seems to me, is tipped onto the leaf in rapid fire succession. The contents are and will remain an eternal mystery.

Each tapri has a little group standing just outside at any given point, blowing up congenial clouds of smoke. Most regulars will ‘run’ an account, usually settled at the end of the week or the month. There is an easy understanding between the tapri guy and the regular, down to not having to ask how many cigarettes should be give, let alone which brand.

My favourite used to be the tapri outside Fergusson College. Like I said, I don’t smoke. But still, that tapri awakens fond memories. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that we ued to meet there and then go to Burger King.

Smoker? No. Glutton? Hell, yeah!