Friday, August 22, 2014

Monday Musing 209 - The Tea

Monday Musing 209 - The Tea

The road journey is often considered a poorer cousin to the more glamorized air and somewhere in between rail journey. The roads are usually left for the poor or the nerdy.
Of the many joys of the road, the one that I especially became aware of this time was the ubiquitous tea stall. The diversity of this brew is as breath taking as the locales itself and each as distinct from each other as the weather, language, dialect, sartorial sense, and the nature of the pot holes.

While travelling from Rajkot to the Gir National park and thereafter travelling in and around it, we stopped for our usual cuppa many a times. I can, with reasonable confidence certify, for whatever that certification is worth, that the best road side tea is brewed in this part of the country. The sample size of around 10 and without any instruction whatsoever to make it 'special', what got dished out was a treat to the senses. It was perfect in its thickness for the taste, perfect in strength to give relief to the jaded body and spirit, perfect in aroma to uplift the mood in total. When I asked the locals the reason for this perfect blend he credited the quality of milk in that area, which kind of assured me because I was suspecting that Narendra modi might take this credit too going by the track record of usurping credit for everything that is good in Gujarat. 

This experience got me thinking about the nature of tea that gets dished out in various parts of the country, particularly on its highways, away from the cities. Here is my collection of the places and regions that I have had the fortune of visiting. 

The north Indian roads prefer it milky and strong. Adding water to it is considered a sign of short circuiting the grandeur of tea making. Personally I think the north, on an average, cannot tell their tea from their milk, precisely because of their preoccupation with the quantity of milk they use. Their tea is actually flavored milk. 

Bengal roads and to a great extent even Orissa offers sugar syrup in the garb of tea. It is thin, slightly strong and bitter because the same tea powder is boiled more than one time. 

TN and Kerala serve decoction and process wise perhaps the most scientific way of making tea because they create the tea separate and mix is with milk outside the container in which it is boiled - at the point of serving which is the glass. This process is followed nowhere else. In all parts of the country everything boils together. Actually these places have copied the coffee making process and adapted to make tea. The great Indian innovation, you see!!

Hinterland UP and Bihar, and not surprisingly so, will check with you whether you want the 'special' in which case it will be more milk and cardamom or ginger thrown in, or else you have to manage with the ones for the hoi polloi, which will be watery and without flavor. 

I am sure there are more archetypes to the humble road side tea than above. I am keen to taste North east and Kashmir to know what they have to offer. Till then, Gujarat rules - with or without the intervention of Mr. Modi. 


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Monday Musings 208 - Matters of guilt

Monday Musings 208 - Matters of guilt

I don’t remember feeling guilty much of my life. This does not obviously mean that I have nothing that in normal circumstances for normal people would evoke guilt. There have been many such instances which do qualify as definitive cases for making a man feel guilty. However guilt, like many other things as beauty, love, revenge and spite, lies in the bosom of the beholder - and so when it came to the choice of feeling guilty for a misdemeanor, I have usually chosen the easier and better path of brushing it aside as an essential part of coming of age ritual, very conveniently overlooking that 35 plus is not really an age when one is still growing up. If it was to happen, it should have happened long back. Hope however remains the culprit. The last time I felt guilty was back in the third grade when buoyed by the spirit of friendship I had considered a friends eraser as mine, claimed it so with nonchalance and was dumb enough to get caught. 

So this time, when after ages when the damn thing called guilt did raise its serpentine head, I was surprised that its vestiges were still alive. So here is my discovery about guilt. To begin with it is clear that it is a very very bad thing. 

Amongst the many human emotion which are of same family as guilt, such as possessiveness, grief, jealousy, and anger, I would rate guilt as the deadliest. It is like diabetes mellitus - not really a disease, but a disorder that kills you slowly but definitively. It is almost as if it is enjoying the process of killing you, like you relish a dish in solitude. It only becomes worse with time. Like diabetes it does not kill in itself, but actually creates a shutdown in all other organs, particularly the heart. Having a heart in itself may be bad but a guilt ridden heart is much worse.  

Guilt normally begins like a small cut and then it feeds on itself and it grows and grows. Soon you are engulfed into its octopus like grip, questioning your own sanity, worth and goodness. When one starts questioning his own goodness and realizes that his self score is a pathetic F, it is much worse that others giving it an F. It is precisely because of its degenerative effects that man created the science of justification and rationalization. It is just so much better to blame it on Rio, or Robert or Rahul. Why begin something that you know has only one end. 

Guilt causes strange chain reactions. The prospect of loss of face robs you of sleep. Your ability to concentrate plunges faster than a stock index, resulting in complete inability to focus and stay calm. The foodies are hit even more as it results in loss of appetite. 

There are only two potential lessons I learnt from this episode - don't do anything that might cause guilt or learn to justify it better.  I know my lesson - what is yours?