Customers come, relish tea next to graves here

It is one of the oldest tea serving joint in the city and only a few remember as to when and how it came up. 

Visitors relish the tea served in the restaurant. One may wonder as to what is special about it. The restaurant has come up amidst graves and probably only one of its kind, which even attracts the elite again and again to enjoy a good cup of tea.

The tables have been arranged in between graves at the Lucky Restaurant. People from all walks of life come for a cup of tea and a famous maska bun (buttered bun with jam). The graves form an integral part of the tea shop, located close to the banks of the River Sabarmati in the Mirzapur area of old Ahmedabad.First-timers feel a bit hesitant to walk into the restaurant. After one visit, they get used to it and keep coming back. 

Employees of the restaurant claim that they have not disturbed the graves and maintained them as they were. In fact, they have properly protected them so that people do not desecrate them. 

Old-timers say they only have a vague idea of how the Lucky Tea Stall, as it was called then, came up in a graveyard, in the old city of Ahmedabad.

However, Krishnan Nair, who migrated from Kerala and served as a manager at the stall for a long time, says the joint was opened about 50 years ago by K Mohammed, who too was from Calicut, now called Kozhikode, in Kerala. It started as a very small kiosk selling pan (betel leaves) and tea. With the growth of the restaurant, a sapling also grew into a tree, he recalls.  

Nair says customers come and go and the graveyard remains untouched. The expanded stall has nurtured the tree, which has also been part of stall’s growth story, inside the building. It forms a canopy over the restaurant and also provides shade to the people , who want to enjoy sipping tea outside.

Arvindbhai, an employee at the restaurant for almost two decades now, says: “The quality of our tea remains the same as it was when the shop started. We have had customers who have been coming here for years and narrated stories to outsiders, for whom Lucky Tea Stall is a must visit when in the city.”

He said those coming to the restaurant for the first time are shocked at the ambience with graves around the tables. After the first visit, it becomes a habit . 

Ramesh Vyas, a regular visitor for the past 10 years, said that he first came here as a student. From then on, he has been coming to the restaurant with guests visiting his place. “I have visited many other old tea stalls of the city but somehow the taste of the tea has not changed a wee bit in the last ten years,” said Vyas.

Hussain connection

The other reason why visitors are attracted to this restaurant is because of an original painting by eminent painter M F Hussain that is hanging on its wall. Hussain was a frequent visitor to the restaurant.

Old timers say the restaurant’s founder Mohammadbhai was Hussain’s friend and the artist started patronising the joint many years ago, when it was just a tea stall with no other added items.

Another old employee at the restaurant, Siddiqui, remembers Hussain as a lean man with a white beard who would frequent the place to meet his friend and the owner of the tea stall. He says all he knew was that this visitor was a famous painter and a friend of his employer, the late Mohammadbhai.

“When I first saw him he was wearing chappals. Many times, he would come in bare feet also. Most of the time, I used to see him coming to the stall in shoes,” Siddiqui recalls.

Artists of fame keep visiting the restaurant out of curiosity and also to take a look at one of Hussain’s original paintings. Many believe that this has been one of Hussain’s best creations as it was made by him at leisure and for one of his best friends. 

M Hasan, son of the late Mohammadbhai, admits that this was one of the prized possessions that they have at the Lucky Restaurant apart from the name. “Many art lovers have come to enquire whether we would want to sell this art piece, but this is one thing that is not meant for sale in this stall,’’ said Hasan.

“Every time he came to the city, he made it a point to sip a cup of tea here. His memories will remain alive in family members’ hearts as well as in the form of the painting that he has gifted to my father,” said Hasan.  

For first-time visitors it has been intriguing as to how the tea stall came up, some even have inhibitions of sitting near the graves.

Arvindbhai points out that some wait to get tables which are not near the grave. He said that once they sip the tea and take a bite of the maska bun, they  take an informal pledge to come back to Lucky Restaurant. 

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