Pakistani ‘chai wala’ turns model after finding fame

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A handsome “chai wala” (tea seller) in Pakistan has seen his life change overnight after a picture of him at work swept the internet.

Arshad Khan, 18, was photographed pouring tea at Islamabad’s Sunday Bazaar by photographer Javeria Ali.

Thousands of lovestruck Twitter users quickly shared the picture, swooning over his piercing eyes, and #ChaiWala began trending across social media.

Days later, Mr Khan shot his first modelling campaign.

Fitin.pk, an online shopping site based in Islamabad, rushed to sign Mr Khan up and is already using pictures of him modelling menswear.

A message on its website and Facebook page reads: “Chai wala is not more chai wala now he is fashion wala!”

In an interview with local TV news, Mr Khan said his family had lived in Islamabad for the last 25 years and that he joined the tea stall a few months ago. He said he hadn’t heard of the social media platforms Instagram or Twitter.

Pakistan’s Express Tribune reportedly tracked the tea seller-turned celebrity down at his usual workplace. Asked if he was aware of his global fame, Mr Khan replied humbly: “Yes, I am aware of my newly found fame and I am incredibly happy. My friends have been showing me pictures since this morning.”

One Indian Twitter user, @Shruti_writes, referenced India-Pakistan tensions by calling for peace for the teenager’s sake, writing: “Pakistan has #ChaiWala looking like this. Please dont bomb it, thanks” [Sic].

Photographer Ms Ali, who posted the fateful picture on 14 October, anticipated the global response, writing simply: “Hot-tea” and signing off with a wink.

She told the BBC: “I was very surprised when it got famous – to me it was a normal casual post!”

Ms Ali, a recent media graduate who photographs weddings and events in Islamabad, said she was delighted for Mr Khan.

“I’m very happy for him, he deserves this. He’s a really nice kid. I just hope he can handle the fame and not be exploited by greedy people.”

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