Few people have visited more chai wallahs in India than the members of the Free Souls Rider motorcycle club. The Delhi-based group consists of 900 bikers who ride by the motto: “Biking is the way to nirvana. We live to ride longer and ride longer to live longer.” Their Harleys and Hondas have covered the country, recently completing the Himachal circuit with its hairpin turns through the Himalayas.
Of course the journeys would not be possible without chai. “We stop for chai every hundred kilometers,” said Ved Prakash, one of the group’s administrators. “It keeps us going and gives our butts a rest.”
We caught up with other members of the group at their regular Sunday meet up at a Subhash Sethi’s dhaba cum chai stand in Delhi’s Qutub Institutional Area. The riders have been coming to Sethi’s since the club was founded in 2011 and the dhaba serves as a de facto club headquarters.
“Chai wallahs are our life line in our journeys,” said biker Hitesh Mohan Agarwal. “I have been to three different corners of India and have taken tea in all directions. Whenever you do such journeys and have tea at various places you indulge in the chai wallah’s life. It’s not just a tea. You give him things to cherish and vice versa. On a recent expedition, the last tea shop had never seen a motorbike. A kilometer-long ride on my bike was like a journey inside heaven for him.”