50 Days of Summer: Nothing artificial about potti kadai refreshments in Chennai

Not only do these potti kadais aid you in finding the perfect mint to follow your afternoon ‘kaapi’ but can serve as your Google guru on the go.


The heat is oppressive now. It settles into every pore and makes it hard to breathe. Armed with my lime green Nalgene bottle and a mental list of “foods that cool” (courtesy of aunts and grandmothers), this Chennai Super Queen is fighting back.

A potti kadai in Chennai

There is a potti kadai next to my office, that I like to frequent. Potti means box, and kadai means store…so essentially, a roadside store, the size of a box. Potti kadais are of extremely limited width but seemingly endless depth, selling stale butter biscuits in dusty jars, 1 Rupee oil packets and soaps, a multitude of Mentos, and cigarettes, among anything else your heart desires.

The owners of these potti kadais should not be taken for granted. Not only do the Muthuswamys and Muruganappas aid you in finding the perfect mint to follow your afternoon kaapi (coffee), but can serve as your Google guru on the go. Does the bus to TTK Road stop here? Where is the best place to get vegetarian meals? What was the score for last night’s Chennai Super Kings match? (This question might touch a nerve, beware.) Inge pakathle nongu kaddaikkuma? (Can I get palm leaf fruit nearby here?)

Note to readers: Nongu fruit, much like the coconut, is packed with the minerals phosphorus and calcium and is extremely cooling for the body.

One of my favorite potti kadais on Lloyds Road is attached to a real juice stall (as opposed to the sugary atrocity called Tropicana Apple found in the grocery stores.) I love this juice stall. He always smiles when I walk by. He makes a special effort to swat away the flies as he slices the sweet lime and squeezes every last drop into the juicer before blending away – “No sugar pa, konjum ice please.”

He hands me the frothy ambrosia in a take-away plastic cup that is almost too flimsy to hold the liquid in the first place, and always a green straw. It is 17 Rupees for one juice, but I let him keep the 3 Rupees change from my 20.

I think of the $10.95 (Rs. 536) that I pay for my freshly squeezed juice at Whole Foods, and I smile. This is so much better.

This post has been republished with permission from the author’s blog.


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Meera is a public health professional advocating for environments free of exploitation, abuse, and violence for adolescents in communities worldwide. She is a lover of all things inventive, quirky, and progressive, inspired by rocky beaches, rainy afternoons, air travel, and magical realism. more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Meera is a public health professional advocating for environments free of exploitation, abuse, and violence for adolescents in communities worldwide. She is a lover of all things inventive, quirky, and progressive, inspired by rocky beaches, rainy afternoons, air travel, and magical realism. more

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