Chai romance

tea

Sit by my side,

Let the world run to the coffee shops,

For their share of  frothy cappuccino,

We will sit here,

In this dimly lit room,

On the Midnapore grass mat,

I bought from the Dastkar Nature Bazar,

We will slowly sip our chai,

Mine with sugar, yours without sugar,

We will talk politics, love jihad,

GST and the times we are living in.

You and I

With a cup of chai.

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Tea

I love tea. I presume tea too loves me.

Tea slows me down. Tea makes me move forward. Tea gives me company. Tea makes me reflect.

Every morning, I drink tea in the same beautiful blue ceramic cup. It’s my own little tea ritual.

Sometimes when I am too sad, I stay away from tea. Sometimes, when I am too happy, I drink cups of tea. One after another.

Tea brings back memories of my loved ones.

teaSometimes when I visit people’s homes or offices, I lie about tea. I say, “I don’t drink tea.” The reason is I am very scared of having over-boiled, sweet, milky tea.

I love my first cup of tea at work. Not in a paper cup but in my own ceramic cup   At 11 am. It makes my day unfold.

I am in mood for a cup of tea. Right now.

This post is an expression of that longing.

Have a cup of chai/tea on my behalf. With love. .

Happiness…

A cup of Earl Grey tea. Reading the newspaper in the midst of stillness of the morning. Sitting by the window in a cafe and watching life lingering lazily on a Sunday morning. Writing my journal and filling almost silk like pages with my fountain pen even as I wait for my toasted brown bread. Getting lost in the pages of Forty Rules of Love and soaking in the sublime beauty of two stories woven beautifully in one novel.

happy

Running my fingers through the piles of bed sheets and finally choosing to pick up two. A random thought embraces me. Will these strangely attractive geometrical patterns ever see two of us together in a bed lying next to each other? Entangled bodies. Entangled emotions. Packing a dinner of rice and mutton curry… food that defined a Sunday. Years ago. When father was there in his elements. Mother was in her pink of health. Putting the AC at 18 degree even if the weather is not brutal outside. Pulling up the comforter till my neck. Holding a glass of whiskey, sipping slowly and even occasionally rubbing it against my cheek. Reading Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman and an ache runs deep within. The soft yellow light of the lamp surprisingly doesn’t bring back shadows of yesterdays. And it’s time now for Adele’s ‘Set fire to the rain’ and yes I know the next will be Dier Strait’s ‘So far away from me’. It’s in that alphabetical order of ‘S’. You don’t forget certain things even when you are too happy or too sad. Is happiness a sad song? No, I just don’t know the logic of being happy. But right now I’ m happy as I gently tap the touchscreen and let it flow.

Newroom gems

Newsrooms can be brutal. Frustrating at times. But on most occasions, it’s an exciting place to be in. The conversations are spicy, salty and crazy too.  Here are some of the newsroom gems (read conversations). Will not spill the beans on who said what. But then it doesn’t matter actually.

* Fuck man, it’s such a boring day…The whole world is having a holiday. Bloody only we are working. Will people die if they don’t read newspapers tomorrow?

* Hey, can I borrow your earphone? Want to write a story in peace, not in a mood to listen to bullshit.

* P V Sindhu…. she’s all over the newspaper… Whenever I hear this PV, I always remember P V Narasimha Rao.
The ‘silent man’ will now turn in his grave. Give him a break.

* No stories for tomorrow. It will be a really tough day.
Somebody answers back: Newspapers are like bedrooms. Eventually the sex will happen. No need to stress.

* Today, I completed 10 years in Gujarat…
Yes… we can give you this name: Baby, bahu, ba (as you came here as a young gal straight out of college and then got married here…and one day you will become a granny here)

* Did you see the bikini pics of the famous holiday?

* Sunny Leone is the most searched person online. Speaks a lot about Indian men.

* Aare, aaj kal players ka interview nehin mila toh uska parents se interview kar lo. Agar woh nehin mile toh, uska kutta/billi se interview kar lo. (These days, if you don’t get to talk to a sportsperson then talk to his parents. If parents are not available then talk to his/her pet dog or cat)

* Of course,I saved the picture in L file…..what will I do if it’s not saved? Aatm hatya kar lu kya? (Should I commit sucicide?)

* Hey guys.. you know there’s a model who eats paper.
Really, kaun hai woh mental? (Who is that mad person?)
Kisi ko chahiye kya (Anybody interested?) Free ka ration supply milega.

* Somebody screams ‘Page 1—R4 PDF  has come… guys one last chance…’
Yes, we can hear you.

* Arre page chhodo… kal paper logon ko mangta hai (Please release the page. Tomorrow people will read the paper). Deadline ka dahi mat banao.

* I miss having cool intelligent people who enjoy ch—tiyapanti.
Boss, what’s the exact meaning of ch***tiyapanti?
Many meanings… which one you want?

*********
Food for thought

Newsrooms are the place where somebody or the other is always eating something, drinking tea/coffee or somebody is making a phone call to the canteen. So, till the edition is put to sleep, you will always hear….

“Bhaiya, ek chai.”

“Anda maggi one plate.”

“Veg sandwitch… bhagwan ke naam pe grill mat karna.”

“Uncle, yeh chai hai ya chhasni (sugar syrup) hai? Chinni muft ka milta hai kya?” (Is this tea or sugar syrup? Do you get free supply of sugar?”

“Chhottu, listen, bread, jam, double omelette… pls don’t put haldi (turmeric) in the omelette.”
“Madam, hum haldi nehin dalte.” (Madam, we don’t put turmeric in omelette)
“Aare, last time omelette mein sirf haldi ka taste hi tha.”
“Na madam.”
“Chottu, maine khaya tha ya tum??? jaldi le ke aana. Aur soon… tomato sauce nehin chahiye..”
“Madam kyon?”
“Kyonki tumhara tomatao sauce kaddu (pumpkin) sauce hai ….”

“Yaar, bahut ho gaya yeh aloo, baigan, giloda, tindola…I want gurda kalegi, bheja fry, biryani…”
“Chalo, khana order karte hai.”

Locked door, closed windows

I am wallowing in grief. Because the door of the house in which my aunt and uncle lived is now locked and all the windows are closed. For me, this three bed-room apartment is home to a collage of wonderful memories. I will hold it close to my heart till I breathe my last. Everytime I went to Bhubaneswar on holidays, I loved being in this sparkingly clean house. It was a house where I could walk in at any point of time even without making a phone call. Five star hotels could have picked up a few lessons in house-keeping from my aunt. Not a single magazine/newspaper was ever misplaced in her house. For years, my favourite way to relax in her house was to lie on her absolutely comfortable bed and read an Outlook or India Today.  Every now and then my aunt would come to me with a cup of tea/coffee and a plate full of mouth-watering snacks. The tea always came in a different cup and on a different tray. I felt like a princess soaking in the love and warmth of my aunt and uncle. Pampering a niece came naturally to them.
Without ever saying, it was understood that it was a home where I was always welcome. I could just put my feet up on the couch and ask my aunt to give me a visual account of all the sari-shopping she did when I was far away. She would then open the cupboard and take out feather-like soft silk and cotton saris in bright colors. In between looking at the saris, I would cast a glance at myself on her dressing table mirror. Life felt like sheer poetry.
I spent languorous moments watching my aunt applying powder on her face after her morning bath. I loved the quietness that ruled the morning air. I loved the way time stretched its arms even as my aunt and me laughed, talked and drank cups of tea. It was love and affection that brought me back to this wonderful house year after year. It was a second home that gave me a chance to escape from existential realities.
I was looking forward to savour that slice of life once again in October. But destiny had willed it otherwise. My aunt passed away on the wee hours of July 17. Last night, my uncle moved to Bengaluru to be with his eldest son. From now onwards, my uncle will divide his time between Bengaluru and New Jersey. The house that once smelt of my aunt’s lip-smacking bread-pakoras, elaichi tea and chicken curry is now locked. Warm memories of laughter laced moments spent with my aunt now fill up my eyes with tears. Sooner or later, dust will settle on my aunt’s pebble like smooth dining table. The colourful teacups that line her kitchen shelf will long for a lip. Every time I think of the locked house, images of my beautiful aunt moving graciously from one room to another haunt me. I still can’t come to terms with the thought that next time when I will be in Bhubaneswar, I will not actually see my aunt pottering around the house like a butterfly. Like my aunt, the house will be as far as the distant horizon.

E for Excess

I have grown up seeing my mom making a list of items to be bought on a paper and then handing it over to the driver/ domestic help along with the money. But then there was no super-market. Only the humble friendly neighborhood shop.
Two days back, I was forced to start my day with black coffee as my stock of Twinning Earl Grey tea was over. I was grumpy the whole day as my day is incomplete without my Earl Grey tea and I can only drink milk tea made by my mom-in-law and my younger sister (both of them really know how to make a perfect cup of tea). I had a mild heart attack when I discovered that a 25 tea bag packet of Earl Grey now costs Rs 200 (the packet mentioned 5 free Green Tea bags). Elementary mathematics (even though I am really really bad at Maths) that day came very easily to me as I immediately calculated that each Earl Grey tea bag costs me now Rs 8. I cursed myself, “Why the hell can’t I drink Wagh Bakri tea?” My humble pay-slip danced in front of me. I felt more miserable but then I immediately consoled myself, “Am I not saving a lot of money on cigarettes now? So let me at least drink good quality tea.”
And then like millions of urban-Indians, I roamed around the super-market with a trolley in my hand and putting one thing after another in it. I came back home, dumped the shopping bag on the dining table and collapsed on my bed (I managed to switch on the AC before that) and in that state of  bliss I finished a packet of freshly bought Lays American cream and Onion (my all-time favourite) potato chips in less than three minutes. My husband was a mute witness to this opera unfolding before him.
After a while, when I felt little better, I looked at my shopping bag to rediscover what all I have bought when all that I needed was just a packet of tea.

Here’s the list

* Three packets of Britannia multi-grain thins in different flavours (Didn’t I take a vow few days back to become ‘thin’ in true sense of the term?)

* Maggie Masala (Never mind, even though my kitchen shelf boasts of couple of maggie packets…. I need my extra dose of ‘two minute’ security)

*Packets of mushroom (well, much-needed… no heartburn on this)

*Soy chunks (Even though I have a packet in the kitchen, I thought of a close friend who loves the way I make chilly soy nuggets… I have been thinking of her a lot in recent times)

* Britannia fruit cakes (Very often I give long lectures to my cook on ‘chini kum’ in my chai (less sugar in my tea) as I am desperate to go back to my model figure. And now I am spending money on cakes….(I need to see a shrink soon)

* Frozen Green peas (I love green peas…so this purchase is logical)

* Frozen corn (I thought may be I can whip up a quick spicy tomato corn bharta… even though I am against all kind of genetically modified corn… Logic leaves me when I enter into a supermarket )

* Bread in different flavours (Some of it thankfully has been consumed by Hubby dear… Some which are of non-vegan variety have to be consumed by yours truly and suddenly I feel I have developed a bread-phobia)

* One packet of kabuli chana (After watching Vicky Donor, my love for Punjabis has grown beyond anybody’s imagination…Even as I was managing my way through the super-market, I thought of Chana-puri which every Punjabi worth his salt loves to gorge on. So, here’s one to Dolly Aunty and Biji of Vicky Donor)

* A huge Bottle of Maggie Hot and Sweet Tomato Ketch up (Big is better in today’s world)

* A bottle of Chilli Garlic Spread (My friend Indira introduced me to this wonderful thing years back and I am hooked to it since then)

Now, my bill ran to something like Rs 860….when all that I needed was a packet of tea. Didn’t somebody say, you take care of the pennies and you will be richer by the pounds. And, now E for me is not Elephant (as dad taught me when I was learning the alphabets). It’s E for Excess.

Tea, where would I be without you?

“Kaka… chai kaisi hai” (How is the tea)? that’s my standard question to him. And his standard answer is “Chai garam hai.” (The tea is hot). And once in three months or so, he tells me authoritatively, “Pee ko jaano. Do cup rakhta hoon.” (Just drink it, you will know. I am keeping two cups”). Kaka is the person who works in our canteen and I presume he’s my best friend (cause when I come back from my holidays, he’s the only one who asks me ‘kahan gaye the… bahut din ho gaya’ (where did you go? long time… with a smile).
Even though I never drink tea with milk at home, my day at work is incomplete without Kaka’s tea at 11 O’ clock and 4 O clock. Without Kaka’s tea, I feel like a restless new bride who goes through pangs of separation when her husband goes out of her sight. And in between 11.30-12.30, on most days I call up the canteen to send another cup of tea only through Kaka.
Tea or chai is my lifeline. For me, the world’s all well if I am having my cup of tea. When I am sad, I can never drink a cup of tea. When I had my first break-up (now when I think of him, I cringe at my then ‘juvenile’ taste in men…. I presume I have got better taste now, or is it so that they are all the same (frankly speaking, I am as confused as the UPA government) eons ago, for two days I couldn’t drink my tea. On the third day better sense prevailed over me and the tea cup made a come back in my life. I have grown up since those college days in Orissa and thankfully I lived to experience intense relationships.     Yet even now when I am sad/depressed, I just can’t bring myself to drink a cup of tea. For me, tea symbolises everything happy, relaxed and most importantly a sense of intimacy. A cup of tea for me is like a flowing river. There’s nothing small or stagnant about it. Even though it comes in a tiny cup or a kullad, for me it gives an innate sense of life and joy. It reminds me of home, JNU, of innumerable journeys in the Indian Railways. It brings back memories of my parents sharing a cup of tea early in the morning and all my sisters enjoying a cup of tea huddled together on the bed and taking pot-shots at the world. The tea needless to say always tastes nice with a bit of gossip.
Every time I think the universe is not treating me like her favourite child, I call up my soul sister in town. On most occasions, we meet at a popular coffee shop and instead of the much-in demand Cappuccino, we order Darjeeling tea. Over cups of tea and conversations, I feel a sense of tranquility. The world seems a better place to live with a brewing cup of tea in my hand. And I embrace laughter with much ease. Sitting in a coffee shop that has become a part of urban landscape in India and ordering a cup of tea also gives me a feeling that you can love tea, or hate tea but you just can’t ignore tea. Not even in a coffee shop. But I would be a happy woman if hotels across India decide not to keep those horrible teabags (I am not taking the brand name but people will understand which one I am referring to) in their rooms. My younger sister who hardly agrees with me on any issue definitely agrees with me on this. So, I presume I am making some sense on this.
Tea is like a lover who is delicate, caring and understands your moods. Tea gives a sublime joy. Tea is like a soft Jaipur rezai which gives the much needed warmth on a winter morning yet it is soft on your skin.
Coffee (well, a lot is actually now happening over coffee now)— I feel is like a boss who will always make you work towards a deadline, a teacher who will make you write your term paper even if you are not in a mood. Or a husband who will fulfill all his responsibilities without ever running his fingers through your entangled hair. I can already sense coffee-lovers aiming their guns at me. Right now, I am waiting for Kaka to come to my desk with his ‘garam’ chai.
Tea, where would I be without you?