Tea? I don’t drink anymore
The rude awakening on how a cup of tea meant a lot more than a simple intake of a hot drink
“The key takeaway from this experiment is that sometimes it is more about the company rather than the thing that makes it more special,” exclaimed my mom, who ended the call soon afterward. While she narrated a whole experiment and implied it on something else, the last phrase remained embedded in my head as this Chaicoholic (people addicted to tea) began pondering on how things changed within a matter of months.
The lad hearing the story from his mother was someone who never refused a cup of tea. Since childhood, he may have lost toys, friends, hair, and even money, but his habit of an evening tea with biscuits remained constant. The moment the sun set and the call for evening prayer echoed through the streets, Faaiz’s mother would carry a tray of five cups of tea and call everyone to the TV lounge. Seasons changed, and the number of cups fluctuated, but Faaiz would always be present, gulping the hot drink in the company of his brothers and mother.
As I grew older, similar to how my appetite increased, my tea intake subsequently increased. It is not as if the gradual increase meant I started drinking tea from jugs rather than a cup, but rather the frequency of having the irresistible drink increased. Here, I would like to mention that Uncle Iroh from Avatar the Last Airbender would be pleased to know I wrote a whole story based on his favourite drink. As weird as it may sound, one of the primary reasons for this increase was how the circle of people with whom I loved to drink tea with, increased overnight.
Last night, I had the opportunity to read a WhatsApp chat of myself with another close friend (who was an acquaintance back then) from almost five years ago. The conversation was dominated by my formal shield, which I use when I am not in my comfort zone with someone, along with academic discussions. However, I came across rare texts, inviting the others to come and have tea. And when I recall that time, I remember how we would grab a cup of tea, sit on a bench and get to know one another. The consistency, in this case, is how till the very end (we are still friends, I just moved to another country) the habit of meeting each other near late evening, having chai while telling about our day, at the same benches, remained an event that we fondly looked forward to every day.
The Bunker Staff, who I always appreciate for being kind, remembered our order, placing friendly bets within themselves regarding our exact order, and would pass a gleaming smile when we would tell them, “4 Cups of Karak Chai!” Unlike home, where mummy would show up with my cup of tea without me even asking her, at university, we patiently waited for our order. Without realizing it, the waiting part after giving the order became a wonderful socializing time with a friend (who was never late) as we would meet other students crossing the library area, engaging in small talk upon coming across us. Unexpectedly, the cult of Chaicoholics kept increasing. By the end of Senior Year, the Academic Block area, near the library, would be regularly occupied by the Chai Gang.
Under the scorching sun of the summers, where temperatures rise to 50 degrees Celsius, you would expect people to give up drinking chai. However, playing an extreme sport, my mother and I had a wonderful tea-drinking spree over the summer holidays. The holidays, during which I did absolutely nothing to spend time at home, were characterized by my companionship with my mother. And when two Chaicoholics stay together, frequent rounds of tea are guaranteed. Whenever my mother wanted to have tea, she would ask me, and without even a moment of hesitation, I would nod my head. Similarly, she would return the favor whenever I craved a nice hot cup of tea. Nevertheless, my little brother did not bulge and kept his intake the same, regardless of the peer pressure at home.
Fast-forward three months, I pass a grin as my mom narrates the social experiment. While the conversation began with me expressing how watching football alone is not fun, the tea example made me ponder over a fact that I did not accept yet. Her words, “On both occasions, the same tea was served, but the time he said it tasted better was when he had it with friends or family, rather than alone, makes you learn a lot of things,” took the conversation from the context of football to my lost habit of drinking tea.
From drinking five cups a day, the lad typing this essay has only drank two cups since he landed in a foreign land. The same brain that craved tea every other moment now strikes down all pleas for having a hot cup of tea. Mentally, it convinced itself that the tea over here was not at par with the one back home, and the lack of taste warrants an immediate withdrawal. However, my mom’s call made me realize that I was manipulating myself to arrive at this conclusion. I brought along the same teabags I use back home. Nestle Everyday doesn’t change overnight like an accent. Water boiled through the kettle does not become Pepsi once poured into the kettle at my flat. THE PEOPLE ARE NO LONGER THERE! That was the reason all along why I discontinued my intake and never accepted that it was the people and the pleasure of talking to them while sipping the hot drink that made me addicted to what I now describe as tea leaves, hot water, and some milk.