Can’t live with, can’t live without – that’s my story of Delhi. And tea.
My first brush with Delhi was a bit of a shocker. I deliberately avoided its sublime charms and kept myself out, refusing to partake in its very “Delhiness” by trying to remain a staunch outsider. It was just as well, I decided then, as I looked with disdain at the many reviews it had garnered and had a few odd ball experiences myself.
But Delhi grew on me. After many visits, when I finally came to live here for a period of two years, I realised I would never be able to shake Delhi off now. And so it began – my romance with Delhi. My tryst with theatre and art, my illicit affair with the exotic eateries which I hid from my many attempts at various diets, my heady plunge into its irritating yet endearing everydayness, my thirst for learning a new nuance of a new culture in its melting pot status. Autowallas became friends, theatre my refuge, Sarojini and Dilli Haat my guilty pleasures, and food, my second love.
Around the same time, I went from being a tea-totaller to a staunch drinker of tea – the green variety that came strictly from the foothill ranges of the Dhauladhar in Himachal. This came to be my first love. The first cup every morning was a much looked forward to affair, one that excluded every other morning chore. The second cup by evening, a break I couldn’t afford to miss – and those “once in a while” cups after lunch, a sheer pleasure I frequently indulged in.
After spending the first 30 years of my life as a staunch non tea drinker (no one touched a cuppa in my maternal home), I now found that it took a whiff of my beloved green tea to get my brain to function in the mornings – an ailment most of us Indians suffer from. I would watch people downing cups of tea from afar and wonder at the fixation. In fact, I even balked at the advice of consuming some for the cause of good health. But I thank divine providence everyday for that flash of curiosity and the second chance I gave to green tea after initially dismissing it as mere boiled water.
We do not seem to care that tea drinking and tea growing came to us from the British. We do not seem bothered that we prepare it in a way that is quintessentially different – every time we prepare a cuppa, we unknowingly and unwittingly celebrate a way that is quintessentially ours. We seem to have completely forgotten how tea drinking has formed entire settlements in various parts of the country where tea growing reared its head so many generations ago. We seem oblivious to its slow yet steady entry into our everyday lives, merely taking a holiday or two to cool off at a now exotic tea estate or hill station.
This suddenly puts things into perspective – imagine all the different kinds of teas and tea drinking that can be found in the melting pot called Delhi!
So, here I am with my cup of tea, strolling leisurely through Delhi – doing what I absolutely love doing. Doing what most Indians do over a cuppa – stopping all activity to collect stories. I am writing the story of Delhi as I see it. From being a cultural and artistic hub, to a foodie paradise to the melting pot of many faiths and many cultures – Delhi is busy showing me all its colors. And I am soaking it all in, one tea bag at a time – with chai wallahs around the corner, and its many tea studios, I am going to serenade bazaars; I am going to indulge in the history behind its beautiful offerings – parks, havelis, eateries, et all; bow my head in reverence and take a sip of tea every time I find a new friend and a new story.
Care to join me for a cuppa?