No other drink inspires as much feeling of relaxation, and trust!
For me every day is a tea day but the International Tea Day (May 21) reminded me this year that it is a hot cup of tea that offers the only warm hug during the Corona times. Although the day is meant to highlight the plight of labourers working in tea plantations across the world, the cups of tea that cheer me are a salute to those untiring efforts that pluck soft tea buds for further processing which makes my beverage a daily reality. Having co-existed with tea as its constant companion ever since, I claim myself to be a tea-totaler. I am often asked – what do you do when you are not doing anything? Drinking tea, what else! Literally, that has been the case. It helps me take a break, sip through the past moments and slip into the next. It is more of a norm than exception to break for a cup of tea between two tasks, considered a fundamental right in offices and at work places. The prime reason being that a cup of tea – warm and comforting – inspires a feeling of relaxation and trust that fosters shared confidences.
For me, it is not an addiction but a carefully considered compulsive habit only. And, the way it works is even more amazing. If you are feeling sleepy, you need a cup of tea; and a warm cup of tea can put you to sleep as well. It has worked for me that way. But not just that, there is more to it! If you are feeling cold, tea will warm you; if you are restless, it will cool you; if you are depressed, it will cheer you; and, if you are excited it will calm you. No other beverage and that too a concoction has so much on offer at an abysmally low price.
During college days, my pals remind me, I was one among those who would consume as many as 16-17 cups of tea daily. At that rate, by a conservative estimate one would drink anywhere between 22k – 28k litres of tea in an active lifetime. Friends will often wonder if it is tea that flows in my veins? Japanese count such expressions as compliments, and instead argue that ‘if man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty’. I would imagine that a cup of tea helps in seeing some of the great things in life.
I have experienced that unlike other drinks, a cup of tea in itself makes for a good company. From the first sip to the last, one gets transported to the hills among tea gardens with flowing streams, chirping birds, and hovering clouds. From shattering loneliness to invoking freshness, a cup of tea at any time of the day is refreshing, that we Indians simply can’t live without. Sometimes I feel it is an aggregate of many things rolled into a cup, the aroma and flavour are just physical manifestations.
With its multi-variants now on offer, chai is one beverage that has come of age to meet all tastes and all needs. On a recent flight to Europe, I had hesitatingly sought a cup of tea. Noticing my longing for something different, the air hostess sought to know if it is ‘masala chai’ that I was seeking. Nothing else could have made me more cheerful!
(Sudhirendar Sharma is a writer on development issues based in New Delhi, India)