The eponymous Satta Gali in Bikaner is bustling with greater activity than usual these days. It is 10am, and a perfect morning for 35-year-old Pawan (name changed) to start his day’s work in satta (betting). With the assembly polls coming closer, he notices a shift in the betting choices of people. Many have started placing bets on which leaders will get tickets, which party will form the state’s next government, and who will be the next CM.
Pawan, who identified himself as a ‘sattoriya’ (bettor), spends his entire day-Monday to Sunday-at a small teashop in Satta Bazaar, euphemistically known as ‘Chai Patti,’ in Bikaner’s old city area.

Hundreds of people make their way through the narrow lanes of this centuries-old, informal betting hub every day, often stopping at shops selling hot samosas, kachoris and tea-and placing bets. Betting is illegal, but the activity here goes on with little visible indications of its existence. It is done among individuals verbally, without any records kept and any trails left.

“I cannot resist coming here. If you also come here once, you will keep coming; it is an addiction,” said Pawan, who has been organising and placing bets here for eight years now.

“It is a place for all sorts of satta. From rain to election results, everything is up for a bet. One can bet on sports, too. Since the state elections are nearing, people are betting on leaders likely to get tickets, parties likely to win, and who will become the CM” he explained.
With more people placing bets on politics since the poll date was announced, a man known locally as a “betting expert” said, “If one does not have knowledge of politics, they end up losing money.”
“For almost 350 years, this place has been known as Satta Bazaar. Now it is called Chai Patti because of the many tea shops here,” said Bachhraj Acharya, a tea shop owner in Satta Gali.
Betting and storytelling seem inseparable here as both shopkeepers and visitors have stories to tell about the historical place.

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“Around two centuries ago, a prostitute, Chhabili Bai, lived here. The place offered many pleasures-good food, satta, and, of course, Chhabili Bai. Even women used to place bets. Chhabili Bai was later shifted to a place that is now known as Chhabili Ghati,” said Sukhdev Acharya, a shop owner.
With legal options of betting now available on smartphones with internet, Satta Gali hardly has its old glory and appeal. But many enthusiasts like Pawan are still drawn to this centuries-old local tradition.

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