Monday, September 6, 2010

Incredible India through my eyes- Tea shop

Tea was never a favourite during my formative years at home. Though it used to be in demand from Don; Bhai and I were brought up on a healthy dose of Bourvita and later Boost. But once we stepped outside the cocoon of our home, it was not long before tea became manna of life for me. I would not say it was not addictive as cigarettes, gutka or booze but rather it was devoid of all the taboos associated with enjoying one of the former ones openly with friends. An innocuous statement as “let’s have tea” would not unfold itself, into a solemn discussion or a trifling, until the first sip had hit the lips. Our favourite hangout was Mama hotel, but we never took a seat at the place, always stood on the curb, sometimes with purpose otherwise just reminiscing. With our fingers folded, across the glass of tea, we felt empowered to take on the world; sometimes it was just a quickie otherwise across many servings.
Times apart my addiction still goes, and so is Don’s. I remember waking up at five in the morning, during our stay in Kerala, and walk a mile to the only ‘thata kadah’, that opens at that time to serve people like us. No problem if the milkman is still asleep, we will have it black. Hundred miles across, in Mumbai, we walk a similar distance to get our daily dose of evening tea. No thanks, the tea from the office coffee dispenser will not do.

We dedicate this part of Incredible India to the humble tea shop. The genuine ones, where the guy would prepare the brew in front of you, on a wood burner or LPG, with milk and water all going in fresh and the aroma just so entrancing that you wish it would touch your lips soon. Take a trip across the length of the country and you would find one of this in every village, town or city. Once, on one of our early morning cuppa in Kerala, Don pointed my attention and asked me to decipher the clicking metal sound coming out from a water filled tumbler at the tea shop. Puzzled and not in my senses at that early hour I gave in easily without much care. He said that the tea guy will place a coin inside the water tumbler and once the water starts boiling the coin would start dancing inside, making the weird noise against the tumbler. This lets the guy make out the water is boiling without even opening the lid. Smart, huh!
I am sure that there are such tea provisions in other parts of the world, especially our neighbours, but the larger world is devoid of the good sense that the tea shop brings to a being. I am sure the west can relate to it through their pubs and cafes but again we have them too. This is over and above them. When you don’t really have the time to sit around lazily, don’t have the bucks to pay for the cover charge, you need something to go well with your puffs and when you really need to take a tiny tiny break or just want to go for a walk and muse over the world passing by, you look for a tea shop.
Such is the reach of the humble tea shop that it has bridged times, distances and cultures to become an imprint on the psyche of our everyday life. That’s why every time I go back to Bhopal, Justin would still always suggest, “Let’s have tea”. And I know it’s just the perfect beginning to whatever is to follow.

1 comment:

SK said...

Absolutely true! Even though I do not drink tea it does bring back all those moments when my friends have gone a-searching for the same and we have spent many hours chatting while standing around a tea shop. With a warm cup of tea in hand during the cold Delhi winters, the conversations just flow.