Happiness is warming your hands with a hot cup of tea. Then gently place them on your closed eyelids. Do you sense the warmth? I say it’s good for your eyes, too! Try it and do let me know how you felt….

Oh no…that is not something that a tea-drinking yoga guru taught me…. it’s my own little ‘getting to know each other game’ with tea. It is capable of warming you internally and calming you externally.

As per Chinese legend, the Emperor of China was drinking a bowl of hot water while he sat in the royal garden. The wind blew a few leaves, and a couple of them fell into his cup and changed the color of water. The Emperor took a sip of the colored water and was thus introduced to the aroma and taste of tea.

On a rough estimate there are 1500 varieties of tea…though if you ask a normal tea drinker in India…they know that there are only typically three types of tea

  • Chai – Powdered Tea boiled with milk, water and sugar
  • Adrak (Ginger) Waali Chai – Same as above with the flavor of ginger
  • Masala Chai – Normal Chai with concoction of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon etc.….

Again the first category can be further categorized into “Ek Cup Chai” usually offered to guests in Indian homes or the ‘Cutting Chai” which finds more reach into commercial establishments. They are like elixir to most people as they start their day with their “Cutting” …. it’s as regular to them as the sun rise, opening the shutters of their shops and anything that forms part of their daily routine.

The second category or the Adrak Waali Chai is supposedly considered to have medicinal properties…it soothes you if you have a sore throat.

The third category is the most popular of all! Not only in India but also overseas…you can see them being offered in most desi joints. Probably they are as popular as our Bollywood stars overseas, but with far more reach!

Then there are combinations and variants of the three too.

Well, if you go the south, they have the Nilgiri tea…a type of black tea which boasts of great medicinal benefits.

If you move towards the east, the Chai loses the i and becomes ‘Cha’. There are two very popular types of tea – Darjeeling Tea and Assam Tea. The flavors and appearance are distinctively different and loyalties are dramatically divided between the two. Darjeeling Tea is a hot favorite with the intellectuals while Assam Tea has a wider reach. A hardcore fan of Darjeeling tea casually remarked that Assam tea is good for washing your hands after an oily meal, you should try it!

I should not forget to mention that there is a roasted category which supposedly gives a stronger caffeine impact…. not for the weak, they say!

Then again with teas like Darjeeling, you can moderate the brew to your liking…. make it light by straining the tea leaves quickly or let it settle down at the bottom, if you like the slightly bitter taste. Not to forget the permutation and combination with and without sugar and or milk.

For the occasional tea drinkers, you can also settle down with some lime tea, peach and other fruit flavored tea…cold with some teasing by ice cubes. Perfect when you just want a cold sip.

It was in the month of April, 2008. My husband informed me that he would pick me up from near my office. I started walking towards the circle in Hiranandani Powai…. the circle was encircled by the Arcadia which housed a food court and some quaint eateries and shops, then.  It has been 8 long years since, so I wonder if time stood still or if things have remained unchanged.

I decided to step in to a small cafeteria for a cup of tea while I waited for my better half.

“Aaaanchooooo…Aaaanchooooo…. Aaaanchooooo…. Aaaanchooooo…7 times!”

This sounds familiar, I thought. I turned around and saw the source of those loud sneezes.

Vitthalrao Ghode (name changed) was more popular in our office for his sneezes than for anything else. When he started sneezing, his colleagues who sat near him would start counting aloud…for they were sure he would not stop till he reached the magical number 7. Ghodeji was a very pleasant natured man who always sported a smile on his face…even when we declared a no increment year in lieu of the slump of oil and gas industry and resulting no business.

“Ghodeji!” I called out and waived to him. All the other tables were occupied, and I did not mind his company.

Without ordering, a veg thali promptly arrived before him.

I was curious, but did not probe.

“Chai?” I offered.

“No thanks, a quick dinner for me. Actually err…I come here for dinner every day…have a monthly deal with these guys. My wife is very busy and I don’t think I should trouble her further.”

“So your wife is working too?”

“Yeah…she works after I return. She gives tuition to Class X students in Maths and Science subjects. So I eat here and go home every day so that she doesn’t have to bother about my dinner. We hardly talk to each other too.”

“Wow…. she must be a very intelligent lady…. I was never good in those subjects.”

Ghodeji smiles in acceptance of my compliment to his wife.

“I have two children… a son and a daughter…the son is in Class X. His teachers say that he is brilliant in his studies. Don’t know when he studies and how.”

“And your daughter?”

“She is 8 years old….and suffers from cerebral palsy.”

I realized how much pain and struggle this colleague was concealing behind his ever smiling face.

He continued, “Ever since she was born, my wife and I have never gone out together. Life has changed. She doesn’t look like me…(pause)…nor like her mother…her face is so different (pause)…. I have read and heard about how daughters share a special bond with their fathers….and(pause)…my daughter does not recognize me. She does not smile at me when I return home everyday.”

For the first time, I saw him crying.

I tried to look around for some tissue to offer, but there wasn’t any in the cafeteria. They expected the customers to walk up to the wash basin after a meal.

“Sorry for bothering you with my worries.”

I felt awkward doing it…and I reached out for his hands to say I understand. But the awkwardness took the better out of both of us…and we leapt back in opposite directions and looked elsewhere to just shrug it off.

I began, “I can never feel what you are going through…. since I don’t even have a child. But I sense deep pain in what you have just shared……being blessed with a special child, makes the parents special too…. (pause)…can I advise you something? (Pause)Sometimes a husband and wife start leading lives separately even though they live together. I was not very happy to hear that you hardly talk to each other. Please…if you can…sit down over a cup of tea every day.”

Weeks passed away with office workload at its peak…. but not a day went when we were not an audience to the “7 loud sneezes” and the smiling Ghodeji as he shuttled between deadlines and his family commitments.

Knock. knock.

I looked up to see who was knocking at the door of my office.

“Aaaanchooooo…” it started.

I smiled and waited till it reached the magical no.7!

Ghodeji walked in with a box of Indian sweets.

“Wanted to share my happiness with you. My son has topped in his board exams at State level.” He was beaming with pride.

“That’s great news. You must celebrate.” I said.

“I had tea with my wife after 8 years (tears rolled down his cheeks) …. never before did it taste so good…thank you!”

“ ??”

“Sometimes God sends an angel to remind us of the good things in life.” He said.

“And some good tea to celebrate it too, “I replied with a smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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