Updated: Jul 27, 2021
Tea has been a staple drink in our household both in the morning and evening for as long as I remember. 'Eta chotoder khaoar jinish noi' (This drink is not for small children), would come the reply whenever I asked for tea when I was younger. I remember the morning I had my first cuppa. It was a winter morning, I was sitting on a camp cot in our terrace, with a shawl wrapped around me and with my back towards the sun, studying for the ICSE pre-test when my mother brought me my first cup of tea. A sense of pride and happiness engulfed me as the thought 'Now I'm an adult' crossed my mind, because 'tea were for adults!'. While the actual reason for my mother handing me the cup was probably that she felt sorry watching me struggling to keep my eyes open to study on that cold winter morning and gave me the hot beverage to chase my sleep away. And thus started my tea journey....
During my doctoral research days, apart from the morning and evening teas from our hostel canteen, a tea break mid-morning as well as in the afternoon with friends and co-researchers was an escape from the lab, and the continuous mental exertion. It was also an excuse not only to share our frustrations on not getting desired experimental results, on our research paper being rejected, on our supervisors not giving us enough time to discuss the research problems; but also to share our excitement on acceptance of research papers, on getting expected experimental results, on our supervisors setting a time to discuss on the research problems. Outside these, occasional tea time with friends at night outside the hostel campus just to get some fresh air or just to have some fun or to plan a road trip are memories that are never forgotten.
The professional life brought with it many challenges as well as successes, the discussions on which were never without the essential beverage-Tea. 'Ma'am, chai peene jana hain?' (Ma'am would you like to go for tea?) would come a call on my office landline or a message on the cellphone or a direct visit to my chamber from my departmental/non-departmental friend(s) cum colleague(s). And I would instantly leave my work (if it was not pressing at that moment or even if I had to work late to complete a work) to have tea with the caller. That tea was a relief from a parched and hoarse throat after a lecture, or a break from the work, or an excuse for meeting up with department or non-departmental friends, or an excuse for discussions on office politics/gossips or on workloads or on research or on student feedback or on personal problems or achievements. Those tea times have developed into some profound friendships which are still there even after we are not in the same place or profession. Those tea routines also had made some observant students understand our friendships or identify our tea partners.
I can recall one such incident some 7/8 years ago-- It was a rainy day and after my lecture was over (on a different building), I had to run to the administrative building for some work where the institute canteen was also located. An active rainy morning called for a cup of tea. So, while on the move I called my colleague cum friend to enquire whether she'd like to have tea in the canteen if she's free, to which she replied that she was free and was already in the administrative building and near the canteen. She mentioned that she'll wait for me at the canteen gate. While she was waiting for me near the canteen gate, a student of mine was passing by and informed her, 'Ma'am are you waiting for Kundu Ma'am? (Yes, I was often called by my surname)..She's is on her way to you!' Both of us had an inexplicable happy feeling about this incident, probably because of the observant nature of the student despite having so many other things in their mind related to that age or probably just because he understood the bond we shared or probably he also had a love for chatting over tea..
Tea is such a magical potion. It is a ubiquitous Indian drink that transcends all status, culture, religion, and class. This hot beverage is a conversation starter, an excuse for gossip or a break in work, an energy booster, a thought provoker, a welcome drink for visitors, an entertainer, and a staple household drink.
What are your tea stories? When did you have your first cuppa? Do you have any special tea stories to share? We would love to hear your stories here...