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Last Updated: Monday, 15 December, 2003, 08:36 GMT
A reviving tea among the graves
Rajeev Khanna
BBC correspondent in Ahmedabad

The Lucky Tea Stall in Ahmedabad, India
Patrons prefer not to talk too much about the graves
You might think the atmosphere in a tea shop would be slightly strained if it stood on a graveyard.

But the Lucky Tea Stall in India's north-western city of Ahmedabad has become a landmark, even if its tables are flanked by Muslim graves.

People from all walks of life come to relish 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 Sabarmati river in the Mirzapur district of old Ahmedabad, in Gujarat state.

The graves are kept according to tradition, with a boundary mark on each to leave them untouched.

Kerala heritage

Patrons have only a vague idea of how the stall came to be on a graveyard.

Ahmedabad is wracked with tensions between Hindus and Muslims and no one was too willing to discuss it.

I always wanted to ask about the history of the shop but I could never gather the courage
Ramesh Dutt, patron
However, Krishnan Kutti Nair, a Malayalee Hindu who migrated from the southern Indian state of Kerala to serve as manager, says the shop was started about 50 years ago by a certain K Mohammed from Calicut in Kerala.

Mr Nair has been serving here since 1973.

"It started as a very small kiosk selling pan (betel leaves) and tea but it slowly grew," he says.

"The original owner, who died some years back, entered into a partnership with a Mumbai (Bombay)-based party."

Although covered by the tea shop, the graveyard remains untouched. A tree trunk still springs through the roof of the shop.

The Lucky Tea Stall in Ahmedabad, India
The graveyard is respected - a tree still grows through the roof

Arvind Bhai, an employee for the past 19 years, 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.

"Once someone comes here, they return to take tea with friends."

Mr Bhai admits some people are sceptical before entering a premises where graves flank the tables.

"But once they overcome their fears, they become regulars," he says.

Ramesh Dutt has been one such regular for the past 10 years.

He first came here as a student of a nearby college but still comes regularly even though his house is now a considerable distance away.

"'These graves have always intrigued me. I always wanted to ask about the history of the shop but I could never gather the courage,'' he says.

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