It is almost everywhere North, West, East, Central, South just everywhere. The betel leaf when mixed with Katha, Chuna (Lime), areca nuts etc is called Paan. This is more omnipresent than chai as you step out in Indian streets you cannot help seeing the ubiquitous paan shop.
The betel leaf is obtained from plantations grown in Central India and elsewhere. Katha is a powdered bark of Khair tree that grows wild in India. Katha is the most important ingredient in it. The powdered bark is boiled in water till it turns into a thick resinous liquid. This is than pasted on the underside of the leaf along with slaked lime, cracked areca nuts (Supari) and plethora of spices, sugar syrup, menthol, tobacco and what not. The connoisseur prefer simple leaf without much additions. This is called the "Sada Paan" while one with sugar syrup and sweetened rose petals is called "Meetha Paan". The latter is preferred by women and children most.
The leaf is subject of much addiction and is digestive in nature. There are addicts who keep it in damp cloth in a pouch and carry it everywhere so that they are never devoid of this magic leaf. In the country it is consumed on regular basis especially post dinner. It acts as a finish for sumptuous Indian meals as well. The leaf offers a good excuse to meet and converse at the paan shop like the chai does.
The leafy concoction acts as a mouth freshener and has digestive properties. The taste varies depending upon the leaf type, Katha quality and other ingredients used. The slaked lime is used in right proportion slight excess may result in sharp burning sensation that could lead to mouth ulcers. Never mind your dedicated shop will not make such a stupid error. The vendors come in all shapes and size young, old, women, men, girls and boys. The shops can be posh airconditioned in major towns selling alongside fancy paraphernalia and cold beverages.
The paan wallah or vendor sells this delicious concoction from a small dingy shop tucked away in some corner of the market. On many occasions you will find a row of shops selling wide variety of paan along with cigarettes, bidis and other small things. The vendor runs a small retail unit that sells related things but the leaf is the center of attraction always.
The babus of India are most touted as paan lovers and you can find bloody stains etched on the walls of their office - East, West, North, South everywhere. Indians have learned to consume this wonderful refreshener but have yet to learn to spit. The clean walls of the houses and public places are obvious targets, walls everywhere contain blotches of paan filled bloody red sputum. Upon chewing, a red liquid mixture is produced in the mouth in contact with saliva this has to be spit out and not ingested. The red blotches on public walls, theatres, cafeterias, even hospitals are ubiquitous and bane of Indian public life.
Walk carefully if you do not want your clothes to be stained by red on roads. The missile can come from everywhere from top, from the side, left or right. The source can be anywhere "puthooooooooo". Sometimes the unlucky one receive an apology...most of the time the source has vanished before you turn your head.
What could be described as horrible breach of etiquette is an accepted norm in India - people talking with mouthful of paan. The listeners can easily make out the guttural so used to it they are.
The leafy concoction wrapped in silver leaf with expensive ingredients signifies the preference of the rich and elite. Besides dinner table or in the drawing you will find the betel leaf container made of fine silver. This is a tradition in India but not among all, the prerogative belongs to nawabs, maharajahs and high profile in the country. The betel leaf is a necessary accompaniment of Indian cuisine and always compliments it.
The poor man's delight is in the local shop and not the expensive silver container.
Eat Paan only for taste and its health benefits - eat less of it.
Addiction may lead to health hazards including Oral Cancer.
Do not stalk paan in your mouth consume it quickly.
Do not use tobacco in your paan avoid it in totality.