Ganesh Dev Panday: From Cinema to Chiyawala 

Tea neither suppresses your hunger nor provides you nutrition but it strengthens the relationships, says Ganesh Dev Panday, an owner of Chiyawal, a tea shop. 

Panday has various identities. Firstly, he is known as a filmmaker who has made films like Malati Ko Bhatti, Manjari, Ganja Baja and Julebi. And now people have also started knowing him as the owner of Chiywala. 

His father, Ghan Shyam Panday, used to run a popular local tea shop in Butwal. 

Teashop as story bank

A tea shop is where people from different walks of life gather and talk about various issues. “While staying in my father’s tea shop I used to hear about so many things, from a personal issue to many others,” Panday recalls. 

Tea shop for him was not just a shop, it was also a place for him to know people and their stories. Panday was very interested in listening to other’s stories. There was a cinema hall near his father’s tea shop. As the new film was about to be released, Panday had to post its poster on the wall of the shop. In return for that, he used to get a free movie ticket. Panday was also interested in books and comics. So to get them for free, Panday used to take sweets from the tea shop and give them to the booksellers.

This is how he got close to society, cinema and literature. 

He then began contemplating how to narrate the stories of those he encountered at a tea shop. He could not find the right way to do it. Then later, his uncle, actor Tika Pahari, asked him to go to Mumbai to study film. In 2005 he went to Mumbai. There he got knowledge about the grammar of filmmaking. He worked as a junior assistant director. “From art design to every small work that happens inside a film set, I did everything,” says Panday, “I worked for a film and tele series that used to feature on Star Plus.” 

Frustration from filmmaking

Still, he was not satisfied with his job. He wanted to do more. He wanted to make his film. So he changed his track. In 2010, he started seeking producers. At that time he had a story, script, energy and a dream to make a film. But no one believed him. 

However, he did not lose hope. He kept fighting and finally in 2011 he made his debut film Malati Ko Bhatti. As the movie revolved around a local story he thought the audience would love it, but things turned out exactly opposite. Commercially, it was a flop.

As a second attempt, he made Manjari in 2013. In 2018, he directed Gaja Baja, but the Censored Board had a problem with the word Gaja, which means marijuana in Nepali, and they did not let the film be released. Afterwards, Panday filed a case in the Supreme Court, demanding the release of the film. For almost one and a half years, SC did not give any verdict. 

“The censorship made me frustrated,” says Panday. 

Inception of Chiyawala

Later, Panday went through depression due to financial burden, as his film, which is also his source of income, could not be released. Panday was frustrated and was looking for a way to overcome the crisis.  But he had no idea about the next step. 

One day while he was thinking about his future, all of a sudden, he wanted to have tea. He asked his wife to get tea for him. But there was no milk at home and not even enough money to buy a packet of milk. 

His wife went to a shop to buy milk on credit, but the shopkeeper did not trust her and she returned empty-handed. Panday felt humiliated by the incident. That humiliation gave him the idea to start a tea shop. 

When a person goes through difficulties, they remember their family, and Panday remembered his father’s tea shop. “I was completely in debt as my film could not be released,” says Panday. “I did not have any means of living.”   

Panday says, “My father taught me the art of making tea. I believed that even if I couldn’t do anything else, I could always make tea.”

At that time all my investments were stuck in film. To open a tea shop as well I did not have money. So he started with a belief that if you tend to do anything with heart, you will be successful. Gradually, things started to come in his favour. In that year, he opened the first outlet of Chiyawala in Sankhamul. 

The place had a simple setting. The dishes were brought from home and the chairs were made from unused or wasted wood. He also used the goods that were kept in store for long. The old TVs have been set as a table at Chiyawala. To give an artistic look to the tea shop, Panday collected stones, painted them and placed them on different sides of the shop. 

“While working in India, I learned to decorate film sets. I used the same skill here too,” says Panday. Panday has avoided all the fancy stuff and has tried to make his space look organic by doing upcycling.  

The place also lacks internet facilities. Panday prefers not to have internet so that people in his tea shop can have conversations and get to know each other rather than solely be busy with their mobile phones.

The tea shop operates on a self-order, self-service system. Chiyawala is now one of the most popular tea shops in the town. Actors, political leaders and journalists have become its regular customers. Currently, Chiyawala has four outlets — Thapathali, Chabahil, Bhaktapur, and Butwal.

“People from other places are also asking to expand outlets of Chiyawala,” says Panday. “People are also showing interest in investment and starting franchises.” Panday has now included his siblings in the tea business, who were in other sectors. In future, Panday aims to expand Chiyawala to 100 different places in the country. 

Rs 30,000 per day 

Chiyawala is not just a popular tea shop, but it has also become financially strong. On average, a single outlet earns Rs 30,000 per day. The four outlets consume 200 litres of milk per day. 

The tea shop has vastly changed the lifestyle of Panday. These days he is mostly seen cooking tea, serving customers and cleaning tables in his tea shops. When asked if he regretted starting a tea shop, he replied, “No, never.”  

“I enjoy working in a tea shop,” he says. “Working here does not make me small.”

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Budhathoki is a journalist, based in Dang.

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