Little did Arshad Khan know, when he rose for fajr prayers at about 4.30am on a hot September morning, that this would be the day that changed his life.
After fajr, the 17-year-old had his breakfast and headed to work at his local Itwar (Sunday) market tea stall on the outskirts of Islamabad. Khan had been working at the market for four years – being one of 17 siblings, little attention was paid to his education and, as a result, he had only ever attended a few days of school.
At 8pm, as a hard day’s shift of making and ladling tea was coming to an end, the sound of a camera clicking made him look up. The second his blue-eyed gaze met that camera, his fate changed. Photographer Jiah Ali, who caught the shot, posted it on Instagram a month later with the caption “Hot tea”. The picture went viral and, within days, people from around the world, including his home country, Pakistan, were discussing the chai wala’s astonishing good looks.