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Stories from an Indian Millennial

If Chai was a religion...

“There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.”― Lin Yutang

Chai is integral to the daily life of most Indians. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that Chai is the only addiction, legal in a moral India. Be it winter mornings, midnight burning of oil for exams, tiring day at work or gathering of guests and friends. Chai somehow fits into every mood and occasion.

If you think my obsession over chai is unfounded, then let me remind you: the last Indian election was won on the very issue of chai. Had Mani Shankar Aiyer not tried to belittle our super chaiwala, Congress would not have reduced to the size of 'pappu tea stall' in the parliament. But we should not hold it against Mr. Aiyer. What will he know about chai and its obessionists ! After all, he comes from the land of 'Filter Kaffee’.

But this wasn't the only thing unfolding during that time. It was also the time for popularisation of chai cafes, The CCD or Starbucks version of our nukkad chai walas. I bet a lot of Indians like me breathed a sigh of relief. It was the end of uncomfortable trips to the coffee cafes. Every time I stepped into a hi-fi cafe - I had to remind myself of the differences between cappuccino, latte, and americano. Then, ensure to ask the server for an extra sachet of sugar. Despite all these efforts, alas convince myself that ‘The coffee is not kadvi (bitter), your taste bud will like it eventually’. And in the end, comforting myself that I didn't just shove my 150 bucks down the drains. At least ambience was worth it! 

If this trauma wasn't enough, you visit a foreign land and get complexed by how that firangi in front of you ordered 'decaf, one cube of sugar, no milk’ like a well-rehearsed pitch. While you stand there, half mesmerized by the last guy’s performance and half perplexed with options on the wall, as the waitress patiently waits for your order. But all this is an old story now, you should see me ordering my chai at one of these chai cafes: 'adrak jyada, thodi kalimirch, medium sugar, dudh kam' (more ginger, little pepper, medium sugar, less milk) and there goes, smooth as a silk delivery. Talking about the level playground, eh?

As you can see my experience of chai is quite versatile. I have had literally ghaat ghaat ki chai and this has made me quite a liberal, if I may say so. You see, I come from the 'pahadi' land of Uttarakhand, where we like our chai usually 'kadak'. But due to some strange twist of faith, I got married to an MP wala, who like their tea with milk, so much so that you’d be lucky to find any trace of water in your tea. So 'The battle of Dudh’ in chai is won and lost every day in our house. But for the benefit of our well wishers, currently, our status lies in 'No Mans Land’. So its all hunky dory in here, fellas!

This is not the only encounter I have had with liberalism. I was once preparing tea for the guests when my mother in law rushed into the kitchen. She in her almost low and conspiring tone said ‘dudh daal dena' (Do add the milk) and we both had a good laugh. I thought that adjusting to varying milk proportion was the end limit of my liberalism until I spent some time in Delhi. If you ever had nukkad ki chai at Delhi, you might understand when I say that 'Delhiwalas’ probably compensate their lack of sweetness in talk with extra sugar in tea. Phew! I hope I am not getting hate mails on this one.

The thing is that Chai is like your signature, to each his own. You can identify people from the chai they make and with the risk of being sounding cynical, hell ! you can even categorize them. This one likes Kadak chai, this one wants no sugar...and the list goes on. I have met people who like chai made by themselves only. No matter how many times they have tea outside, gharwali chai is where they find nirvana.

Tea is omnipresent in our lives, one way or the other. Be it the crisis of Supreme Court judges that was termed ‘a storm in a teacup’ or the famous saying of ‘many a slip between the cup and the lips’. Trust me, if you haven't called your friends at midnight asking, 'chai peene chalein kya?’, you haven't had thick friendships.

Therefore I say, If chai was a religion, there would be satsangs on every nukkad, daily prayers at bachelor houses and war waged against the non believers…oops! the non drinkers. 
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...until next read !

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I am a writer by passion, a petroleum engineer by accident and a proud Indian by origin. You can connect with me on facebooktwitter and instagram @curiousinkpot

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