Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tea Time

It is a very interesting sight indeed to watch a whirlpool getting formed in the sauce pan when you boil tea with milk along with shreds of cardamom. The aroma of boiling tea seasoned with the best of breed cardamom from the winding ghats of Wayanad brought back a hoard of memories during tea time at various stages of life.

I remember reaching home after school around four o’ clock in the evening where a hot cup of milk mixed with the likes of Complan, Bournvita or Horlicks awaited me. There was hardly a day when this delicious cup of milk was not accompanied by any of the traditional tea time snacks from God’s Own Country. I was so excited when we got a free cup along with a one kilogram pack of Complan. I recollect the writing on the cup with Complan written in red color. That was meant to be my favorite cup for years to come.

Time flew by and I graduated from shorts to pants and so did the evening snacks. If frequent visitor programs existed at that time of history for retail outlets, I would’ve definitely been at least a gold member with the local bakery. The options you could get were minimal compared to these days though I distinctly remember having a huge craving for delicacies like butter buns, sweet nans, puffs and similar such stuff. The budget available of course was very minimal that you could hardly have one or two of these and that too occasionally. Probably that’s why these were precious and tasted heavenly!

Stepped into the campus mode where college canteens and other similar hangouts became a part of life. Tea time with family was becoming a rarity with this change. Nevertheless in that age and psyche it never posed any kind of regrets. That was the order of the day. Soon it was time to leave the town I was part of for 20 odd years and migrated to a totally alien city, the Manchester of South India - Coimbatore.

The steel tumblers of the college hostel welcomed us with options for coffee and tea with unlimited supply. We had formed a core group of friends and soon realized that the tea shops at the backyard of college campus hold much better goodies than the liberally liquidated tea or coffee which the hostel mess could offer. There I discovered to my amusement a wonder called half-tea! The hot samosas, chewy mushroom Manchurians and the little wonder served in the tiniest glasses called half-tea filled our evening discussions. The random flights that take off from the Coimbatore airport in the backdrop gave the whole evening a dramatic experience.

The garden city of India was my next destination. Bangalore redefines your way of life. My days there started with some learning at NIIT when I was staying along with my dearest cousin sister at our aunt’s place. Needless to say most of the tea time was back at home and I was happy to reclaim the days with family during evenings.

This was followed by a stint of project work at a small IT firm, one of the multitudes of technology companies in Bangalore, which if laid down on a map will give competition to the herds of wild beasts treading the Sub-Saharan terrain. I had moved to single room occupancy and the nearest tea shop became my usual place for evenings.

My career got officially kicked off shortly and the distance to office meant that I reach back home only for dinner. The catering company operating the office cafeteria was destined to get the tea bills paid by me for the next few years. Colleagues and friends were the tea-mates during this part of my life. The cups of tea witnessed the debates surrounding why that was a great place to work and why that wasn’t.

Seasons changed fifteen times and I was slated to take my first ever international flight as part of an assignment. Residence Inn, a property by Marriott was to be my abode for the next quarter. Here happened the biggest change in my tea time life. Marriott offered good options for tea and coffee. But it wasn’t that which attracted us the lesser mortals, from the land where you get to drink this only by paying a handsome amount. Beer! It was flowing and plenty that too! Tea time gave way to the sparkling yellow chilled drink and that was promptly supported with chips and hotdogs.

Few months down the line life took a full turn with marriage on cards and tea time resurrected with the concept of family taking center stage. The flavors of tea and coffee filled the home since the preferences were different. A middle line was drawn during this stage as depicted in an earlier post. Believe there is a direct proportion to the grey hair and the grey matter. As every other couple we also evolved. The middle line was not required any more. The tea time was unified again.

The land where ‘1001 Arabian Nights’ was born, laid down the magic carpet for us. Evenings in Dubai became even better with office hours finishing early, giving us ample time to be together and tea time has become even more fun. With the kid growing up it has turned into a full-fledged game of acrobatic-tea where you try your best to have a sip from the cup by skillfully avoiding the little fingers holding it and dragging it towards him.

I think it is all about life. Tea time.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Do you touch wood?

Ever since I started to converse with people around me, there has been one phrase that I used to hear from many of them. It was natural to have conversations about someone related to you or some material possession you have. Good natured comments about these people or things will obviously find its place in between these chit chat.

I’ve observed with a strange phenomenon that each time a complimenting word is spoken about the subject in discussion it will be promptly followed by a frantic search for an article made out of wood so that they could touch it and say the magical phrase ‘touch wood’!

Recently I did some research and Wikipedia gave me some facts about this act. The practice comes from the Greek tradition in western folklore of literally touching/knocking on wood, or merely stating that you are doing or intend same, in order to avoid ‘tempting fate’ after making a favorable observation, a boast, or declaration concerning one's own death.

The bigger question that remains is how this tradition is an oxymoron in view of religious beliefs. Most of us belong to one or other religion that exists in this world. For all those who do not belong to any religion or do not practice a specific religion, this tradition could be an acceptable norm. For the rest of the humankind isn’t this practice anything but a sheer blasphemy?

Almost all religions teach to believe in the existence of a super natural power which guides the world and the events around us. Some people call that God and we have innumerable names given to the concept of ‘God’ across these religions. All these Gods have taught people to believe in them to have a good life. I’m sure no one prays to get a horrible life.

It has a historical aspect that people have been following rituals like these to ward off evil from casting its shadows on their lives. It is fascinating to see people being made to think that a natural grown piece of wood has celestial capabilities to do away with the unnatural being supposedly existing in this world awaiting its turn to strike on those who do not touch wood!

Being an ardent believer or not, there are situations that lead some people to start thinking in these lines. This is especially true when it comes to the little ones at home. Your baby could be all well, kicking and alive making your life one of the most envious to all those who are not that abundantly blessed. One fine day this relative or friend of yours come home, looks at your child and exclaims, “Look at her; she is such a cutie pie. I’m sure this little angel can never give you any trouble whatsoever”.

Soon after the person leaves all the while appreciating your hospitality, the little angel somehow turns into the most violent monster you’ve ever faced! The baby who was sleeping peacefully till that day refuses to sleep, develops some sort of uneasiness, does not take any food given including the forbidden sweets and totally becomes a moron with not even a shade of the angelic tranquility that was attributed a few moments earlier!

It takes all the effort in the world for you to bring back the cutie pie and you almost thought your life is back on track. There comes another friend who will have something similar to say as the previous one and life takes a full circle again.

You become paranoid to such an extent that you start believing in the apotropaic tradition and your hand will be auto programmed to reach a wood as soon as you hear or say something good about your baby!

The irony of life can go to such depths that God himself may start growing a forest to enable people to knock the wood. The heights of such an incident was when the other day a couple was seen reaching out to a blessed wooden rosary when something nice was spoken about their kid, since they could not find anything else made of wood and exclaimed to their heart’s content - touch wood!

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