My day begins with a cup of tea; well actually it begins with the ritual of fixing that perfect cuppa. Out of the tea set and the Kashmiri tea cosy, boiling water is poured over tea leaves and allowed to soak in the tea pot to bring out the flavour, not a minute more, not a minute less. Not too milky, a dash of sugar and the perfect brew is ready. It is like an initiation of the long day ahead. Sipping my tea, I go through the paper and ponder over the happenings around the globe.
I make it a point to wake up early, to enjoy that heavenly morning freshness with a heavenly tasting tea. and luxuriate in the stillness of the morning, before the day comes crashing to me, submerging me with its breathless pace and sometimes its unexpectedness.
Most of us have an almost symbiotic relationship with our cup of beverage. As the hot liquid surges through our insides, it energizes us and awakens us. An early wintry morning and chances are you will spot a roadside tea vendor surrounded by the odd rickshawwallah or a mason on their way to work. They sit hunched on the pavement, with their hands wrapped around the steaming glass, sipping the hot frothy tea in respectful silence, as if paying obeisance.
Quite a few of us are addicted to our cup of ‘chai’ -a splitting headache and you reach out for it to unclog your nerves. It rains incessantly, the temperature dips and you yearn for adrak ki chai(ginger tea) with assorted savouries. If your nagging cold and cough is making you feel wretched, buss ek cup chai is expected to do wonders for you.
While travelling by train I remember how me and my brother relished the tea served in the khullars. Even if the tea was tasting awful, still the earthen khullars made it special, but now the tea served the Styrofoam cups makes it so detestable, the only attraction “earthen cups” have given way to Styrofoam cups .
When it comes to tea, we all have our rigid preferences and staunch followers of a particular type of tea- in the North the chai is usually boiled with milk, sugar and assorted spices, till it reaches a thick consistency. Down South, people may prefer filter coffee, but the tea from Niligiris has its niche. I have my loyalties with the Kangra tea and nothing pleases as this tea from Himachal. Be it the tea gardens at Taragarh or the Bundla tea estate at Palampur. Apart from providing a scenic view the freshly plucked tea leaves and the Pahari ladies with their baskets tied to their heads, make our heads turn and appreciate their effort and hard work. Now, the tea bag variety is a convenient, not messy option apart from this, they even offer green, black, herbal and organic tea flavours. Well tea is mostly an Asian preference with Europeans slowly warming up to it, but India is the largest consumer of tea and now our respected Prime Minister being so closely associated with tea.
But slowly our very own ‘chai’ is losing out to various international chains of beverages. I still remember how my parents and grandparents used to have long adda sessions with friends, over endless cups of tea.
Recently, I was taken by surprise when an friend came to call on and on asking him, “what would he like to have?” He replied ” Ginger Tea”, because I could not figure out exactly, when I served tea to my friends last.
But even though we may have acquired an improved cosmopolitan outlook and prefer sipping a mocha in an upscale mall, yet it is the ubiquitous chai that defines the essence of India. The Indian brew that knows no qualms in having it even from a roadside shanty stall.It is the chai, which is an apt example of “Unity in Diversity” and binds our nation to an extent , yes it unifies us with its diverse flavours and aromas.