Chennai: It is 1:45 pm in the afternoon when four employees are coming out of the Railways Division Office at Park Town and calling out to Rajeev “Rajeev! Oru Panai Vellam, oru citrus, rendu honey tea”. Besides, there are others who are asking for different varieties of tea after looking at the list of 100 types of tea on the board with the name Diya Snacks. The story of Rajeev and Diya Snacks is born out of the influence from family roots and persuasion of some of his friends.
And also from a tiny tale of collapsed dream leading to a new dawn; for, Rajeev had come to Chennai from native Palakkad in 1997 to join the MBBS course at the Madras Medical College and ended up running a tea shop across the road when his big ambition to become a doctor and serve the poor back home fell through some personal setbacks and he had to give up within a few months of enrolling at the prestigious MMC.
So what if he could not become a doctor, Rajeev had thought, before deciding to turn a healer of a different sort-serving herbal teas that promised remedies for a variety of ailments from common cold to respiratory issues and abdominal ‘corrections’. Ancient wisdom bequeathed by his grandmother helped hugely and there was big encouragement from friends in setting up Diya at Park Town.
“When I was a kid back home, many people used to visit my grandmother instead of a clinic for their mild ailments like cough and cold. I asked my grandmother once and she explained the importance of herbal cure. From then I’ve been helping her in sourcing the herbs from the nearby forest and preparing her medicines. I think it was this education in healing that triggered my passion to become a doctor”, Rajeev told Deccan Chronicle.
When he first set up his stall in front of the medical college, he got huge patronage from the students seeking natural remedies for cough and cold. He used to prepare fifty to sixty different types of tea before moving to the current location less than a km away and putting up Diya with its 100 teas in 2012.
“Due to the space constraints, the Chennai Corporation had moved my stall to this location. This space is registered and I even pay the rent. I have the big advantage of being close to the Central Station, Government office, General Hospital and food stalls”, Rajiv said.
In spite of having reliable and ever growing customers, Rajeev never compromised on his objective of serving to the society in the best possible way and with the best possible knowledge on medical cure. While the most expensive Honey Tea costs `20 a cup, the rest of the 99 come for a mere Rs 10 per cup.
Medico Prithvi is among the dozens of regulars at Diya. “I study at Stanley Medical College and I am a frequent customer here. I’ve tasted more than 25 types of tea, my favourite being the Caramel tea. I come here often not because of the price but the authentic way of preparing it, right from the storage to serving. Very rarely you come across people like Rajeev anna who wants to give back to society” said Prithvi, relishing his Caramel.
The stall on a daily basis uses fifty to sixty litres of milk and a liberal amount of herbs sourced mostly from God’s Own Country. Rajeev’s concern for health can be seen in his storage manner as all the herbs are carefully stored in ceramic jars properly closed for hygiene and longevity. “I am working on a book on herbal tea recipes. It is almost complete”, said Rajeev with a broad smile....