Ghulam Raees used to work at Ahmeddeen’s teashop, and would drink tea with him every afternoon. He still goes to drink tea every day with his friend Ahmeddeen, who is now old and lives above the closed teashop, alone. Bas Ek Pyali Chai (Just One Cup of Tea) tells the story of the perfect cup of tea and the big difference little things can make.
A cup of tea sipped with a friend can serve as a meaningful ritual, imparting a sense of connection and shared experience along with its flavour and aroma. Bas Ek Pyali Chai (Just One Cup of Tea) focuses on 15 minutes in the daily routine of Ghulam Raees (Rashid Farooqi), as he closes up his humble shop selling miswaks, and goes to visit his old friend Ahmeddeen (Qazi Wajid) to drink tea with him. We discover more about the lives of Ghulam Raees, his former employer and those around him against a setting filled with the mesmerising quality of simple everyday activities taking place, such as samosas being cooked, passengers transported in a horse-drawn carriage or tea being made. Bas Ek Pyali Chai is a celebration of the importance of the small things and blessings that make up our everyday experiences – sacrifices, kindnesses, rituals and sensory details.
Ahmeddeen’s children have left home and his beloved wife has passed away, but his old employee, Ghulam Raees, still comes every day to drink tea with him. At the end of the day, after selling just enough miswaks to be able to get by, Ghulam Raees packs away the makeshift shop he now has into a bag and sets out to take in the evening, visiting a tea shop on his way. “It is a short but delightful walk for me. Everywhere you look the mood is that of a festival.”
He reflects on the beggar who sells Islamic booklets and small Divine Names (which he calls blessings) near where he sells his miswaks. The beggar has been selling “blessings” in the area for the past thirteen years, arriving after the Asr prayers and leaving by the Maghrib prayers. “I tend to think,” Ghulam Raees says, “that it’s because of these “blessings” that [all of us], Asghar’s chaat, Usman’s samosas and this horse-drawn carriage which is pulled by our beloved Rocket, are all able to sustain ourselves.”
When Ghulam Raees brings tea to his old friend Ahmeddeen, who is alone in his old age, Ahmeddeen tells him “I am grateful to you for bringing this tasteless tea every day.” He cannot forget the taste of the perfect blend of tea his late wife Rukhsana used to make, and is trying to remember where she left the last stash of it. The way that smells and flavours can bring back old memories is woven into the story. “I was entranced by the smell and perfume of the tea. Because emanating from this kettle was the aroma of Begun sahiba’s tea. It felt like she herself was present with us,” Ghulam Raees comments when they finally sip the perfect cup of tea together. The importance of making a habit of kindness and caring for others, even if this is just through sharing a cup of tea each day, is a message central to the story of this short film.
Bas Ek Pyali Chai also highlights the issue of caring for the elderly in their old age, both generationally and within the community, as they face isolation, loneliness, frailty and ill health. Ahmeddeen’s children are far from home, his wife has died, and it is Ghulam Raees and his neighbours who try to do what they can to make his last days more comfortable. Director and writer Muhammad Belaal Imran also wrote the short film Nanu and Me, which focuses on the doting relationship between a granddaughter and her grandfather who raised her, and the balance between pursuing her dreams and caring for him in his old age.
Watching Just One Cup of Tea is a nice way to slow down and appreciate the little blessings and simple everyday pleasures we encounter in our daily lives. It is a meditative reflection on the importance of community, small acts of kindness, and the time-honoured ritual of drinking tea together.