In 2016, an 18-year-old tea vendor at a local market tea stall became an overnight sensation in Pakistan after his photo went viral on the internet, with many swooning over his good looks. Four years on, Arshad Khan is trending once more – this time for opening his own cafe in the capital city.
Naming it “Cafe Chai Wala Rooftop”, the 22-year-old used the moniker he is known for since the social media whirlwind brought him international fame, modelling gigs and even acting jobs.
The blue-eyed “chai wala” (tea seller) shot to viral fame after the picture of him brewing tea at a Sunday market bazaar was posted on Instagram. It was swiftly shared thousands of times, making him a social media sensation.
Leaning back against a chair in his colourful cafe, which held an official opening on Oct. 9, Khan spoke about the reason he decided to start his own business.
“In the past, I used to work as a daily wager, which you know, is like 400, 500 rupees (per day). Then, when I joined this modelling industry, you know, and actors and models know it better, sometimes there are good projects, the other times, (there would be) no business. It went on, but now I have launched my own cafe because it is a regular business. I can keep earning regularly from this cafe,” he said.
But it wasn’t just the financial security that propelled him to step away from showbiz. At one stage, his conservative family disapproved of his modeling career after he appeared in a music video with a woman.
“Now, praise be to Allah, his work has started again. Now he has opened this cafe, and our family members and relatives are supporting him,” his brother Noor Mohammad said.
But the starry-eyed young man has an even bigger dream in sight. Khan, an ethnic Pashtun, hopes to use his fame and cafe to set up a school for impoverished children.
“Apart from receiving education, the children can also learn some craftwork there so that they are not dependent on a (particular) job,” he said.
(Production: Jacinta Goh, Salah Uddin, Waseem Sattar, Shahabuddin Shahab)