“If you are cold, tea will warm you; If you are too heated it will cool you; If you are depressed it will cheer you; If you are excited it will calm you.” Said William Ewart Gladstone, one the prime ministers of Britain. Indians perhaps understand the value of this quote the most. As for them their ‘Chaiwallahs’ and their ‘chai’ are dearest to them. We Indians can’t imagine our lives without this beverage. Just like the morning newspaper, our hot cup of tea is not the luxury but the necessity. ‘Chai’, can be thought of as our national beverage, in the same manner as the Peacock is our nation bird and Jana Gana Mana our national anthem.
The love for tea is depicted by the magnificent figures pertaining to this industry. After tourism, the cultivation of tea is the largest industry and contributes in big numbers to our gross national product and foreign exchange numbers. In the year 2016, we find every Indian being a consumer of this beverage, but the history reveals another tale. Back in the 1800’s the British, through the English East India Company brought the tea leaves into our soil from China. Their sole motive being to crush the growing Chinese monopoly. Earlier sipping a cup of tea was symbolic to a man’s richness and intellectual capability. However, now the situation has completely reversed and it can be referred to as the common man’s drink.
As they say, once a tea lover is always a tea lover! Indian’s especially are deeply attached to this beverage. On a more philosophical level chai teaches you a lot of things in your life. The process of making tea is one of the simplest. Just pour milk, water, sugar and tea leaves on a hot simmering pan and let it boil and our tea is ready. However, in this simple process, the catch is to have the right proportion of ingredients. We Indians like our tea made with the perfect amount of milk, tea leaves and sugar. Life in the same way should have a right balance of happiness, anger, sadness, basically a perfect balance of all the emotions. So that you learn to value each passing phase in your life. Also for every individual, the right or wrong phase has a different interpretation. Just like for no two people a same cup of tea would be treated as ‘ideal’.
Tea leaves which are the most important component of the chai are cultivated mostly in Assam and Darjeeling. We can say it’s the one thing which puts an owner of a tiny shop on the roadside and an owner of a multi national company on an equal footing. Both like to begin their day with a steaming cup of tea. This is because nothing refreshes an Indian more than his chai. Looking around we will see that this is the beverage which is linked to us in every part of our life. Since this essay is titled Chai aur WOH, we will now move on to the later part of it. Who really is the WOH.
Chai aur Pyaar
There is no single answer to this question. This can be interpreted in different ways. First is of course, chai aur pyaar. In India majority of the love stories begin with this drink. It definitely is a conversation starter, as it helps to break the awkward silence (so to say). Just like the phrase ‘Lets have coffee together?’, chai too still has its charm. Mentioned below is a short story about two college going students and how their story had chai involved in it.
The story is set in a small college of Delhi University. Since fest season was coming closer day by day, societies had started practicing rigorously. As everyone desired to win the first prize for their college. It was a Saturday morning, and the practice of the western music and dramatics society had just got over. By the clock it was 8am and there was still another one hour for the classes to begin. While some of the students went back home, since they stayed near by, others went to their friend’s hostel or PG accommodations. Out of the whole lot there were only few who had no idea how to pass their time. Sameer and Rohini belonged to the later.
Sameer, carrying a guitar on his back headed to the college canteen. Standing next to the tables was a group of girls in which one had her face painted. She was Rohini and was the lead actress in her dramatics society. Both of them were very well known in the college for their respective talents. However, were no way associated with each other. After a couple of minutes only the two of them remained, as all the others had some place to be.
Rohini was the first one to go to munshi bhaiya and say, ‘bhaiya ek masala chai dena’. As she gave the order, Sameer for the first time noticed her and found something different. He had the urge of getting to know her. However, uttered no words and waited for his turn to order. He too ordered chai. As everyone knew that at this time of the day chai was the only thing available in the college canteen.
Rohini took her tea and went and sat on the extreme left side of the canteen. Sameer didn’t want to look desperate and therefore went and sat on the opposite end. This same story continued for one week when finally, he took the courage of asking her if she had no problem if they sat on the same table and drank their tea. Gradually small talks began and both of them realized they did in fact have a lot in common. Their passion, dreams, viewpoints were similar to great extent. Both spoke about a variety of topics, from studies in the college to the latest happenings in the world of politics to where they wanted to be five years down the line. Everyday it was just the both of them and their cup of chai. This definitely was the start of something beautiful, thanks to that cup of tea kept on the table.
Chai aur Railways
A journey in the Indian Railways is implausible without the chaiwallahs and their chai. The fact that chai is so deeply embedded in the Indian culture is evident by its huge amount of sales. It’s a tradition that when the train halts, the passengers get down on the platform to get their cup of tea. In big railway stations, amongst the bustling activity, you will find one or sometimes many chaiwallahs. They will have their shops, in which along with chai they also sell magazines, chips and bottled water. However, what is fascinating is that there are some railway stations, which are isolated. No passenger gets on the train from them nor any passenger gets off there. Still in every station of India, along with the office of the station master, you will always have a chaiwallah.
There is one scene which we see in every train, irrespective of its destination. Early morning, when half the passengers are still fast asleep, you can hear the sound of chaiwallahs. They scream out loudly, ‘chai le lo, chai le lo!’. Their voices tell the passengers that it’s morning and they will soon arrive at their respective stations. That is the power of chaiwallahs in the Indian Railways. They are like the messengers of God for long train journeys. For instance, from Mumbai to Delhi or Kolkata to Pune. Sitting on the same seat and seeing the same surrounding for days can be very frustrating. Chai is the one thing that refreshes them and lets them flex a muscle. As they go down to the platform to purchase it at times.
In general, we can classify the chaiwallahs into three categories. First are the ones who have a proper cemented shop in the midst of a platform. The passengers have to walk towards this shop in order to get their tea. Along with tea, they will also find packets of biscuits, chips and bottled water. All these are neatly stacked up on the shelves of their shop. They brew their tea in aluminum kettles which have an insulated handle. Since aluminum kettles are lighter than their steel count parts and heat up faster. Second are the chaiwallahs who move around the platform with a trolley on wheels. Even though they have most of the components of the chai ready they are still at a disadvantage. Since their business is conducted in a much slower fashion. To overcome this, they hire small boys who carry trays of prepared tea around the platform. Due to their swiftness, they are able to move from one window to another in a jiffy. Lastly, we have the chaiwallahs who enter the train with readymade tea and serve it in plastic glasses. They come to our rescue when lethargy takes over us.
Earlier the tea was served in traditionally backed earthen cups, also known as kullarh. The fragrance of the earthen cup seemed to enhance the taste of the tea. However, now to make business more profitable they have switched to plastic glasses. I’m sure there must be some stations where you would get a glimpse of the past through these kullarhs. One thing to note is that there may be times where you will not find food or drinks at a station, but you will always see your chaiwallahs. They will be standing on the platform with a big smile on their faces, eager to serve you.
Our very own Prime Minster, Shri Narendra Modi was a tea seller in his childhood. He worked in his father’s tea stall on a railways station in Ahmedabad, Gujrat. One can say he grew up selling tea.
Even after becoming the Prime minister of India he still has connections with his roots. As he started his well know programme, ‘chai pe charcha’. In which he as diplomatic meetings on an international level. Some of the important chai pe charcha were with US President Barack Obama and Chinese Prime Minister, Xi Jinping.
Chai aur Monsoons
Tea brings you happiness and when it is accompanied with the rains, this happiness doubles. No drink or juice warms you up the way tea does. Especially in a cold, rainy day. Mentioned below are some of the reasons why tea is the best thing that can happen to us during the rains.
Firstly, its easily available. Tea is the most commonly found beverage in the country. Whether you are walking on the roads or shopping in malls, it will always be a few steps away from you. Secondly, its pocket-friendly. If you decide to stop over at a tea stall on the road, a cup will not be more than Rs.10. Even if you decide to go to a slightly more hygienic place, for instance, Chai Story or Chaayos, it will always be the cheapest item on the menu. In these outlets the variety of tea found is mind boggling. You find thandi sauf and elaichi chai and also the evergreen masala and cutting chai. Basically, there is something for everybody.
Thirdly, this is the best time to go on a road trip. One can stop by small dhabas to have their special kulhar chai. It makes you have a reunion and fun trip with family or friends. Some good places for these trips include Murthal and Lonavala. One should definitely not waste this amazing weather sitting at home but take out their vehicles and enjoy to the fullest.
Tea as a beverage is extremely adjusting. It goes well with practically every edible food item. However, when we talk about the rains there are some worth a mention. These include pakodas, bhajiyas, samosa and Vada Pav. The combination loved by everyone the most is of cutting chai and mirchi and pyaaz ke pakode. Yes, it makes the rain much prettier than it already is.
Lastly, love is the flavor of this season and it is the perfect time to take your loved one for a romantic tea date. There can be nothing more romantic than sitting under a shade and sipping that warm cup of tea together. It’s the cheapest and the best option for a date during the monsoons. It brings happiness and warmth to the person sitting beside you. It also shields you against all the germs leading to a cold, cough and flu. This is especially the case with ginger tea. On the whole, it’s the best option during the rainy season.
Chai aur Vyapaar
As mentioned earlier, tea is a major contributor to the Indian economy. India is one of the leading nations in its production, distribution and export. This is evident as we consume 25 percent of the tea produced around the world and is itself the second largest producer of it. The process by which tea is manufactured is known as Tea Processing. It is the method by which leaves of the Camellia Sinesis is converted into dried leaves for the brewing of tea. The types of tea depend on the nature of the process they undergo. The basic steps involved are plucking, withering, disruption, oxidation, fixation, shaping and curling.
In India even though Tata Tea tops the list of tea brands, there are several others which are doing really well. They include Pataka Tea, Brook Bond Taj Mahal Tea, Wagh Bakri Tea and Brooke Bond Taaza Tea. Since Indian’s can not have their tea without some nastaa, the sale of biscuits and chips also goes up. Some of the biscuits which people like having with tea are Brittania Marigold and Parle G biscuit. Chai and Kurkure have been an evergreen favourite of people.
Due to rapid amount of industrialization, this industry has also expanded considerably. Even though normal tea is still the most preffered one, we now also have flavored tea. Some popular flavours being, ginger, lemon and tulsi. Secondly, tea bags have made our lives much easier. Even though they are more expensive, it is worth the amount of time saved. These are also available in different flavors. One variety of tea which has recently become really popular is the Chinese green tea. This is due to its health benefits. It increases fat burning and improves physical performance. It also improves the immunity and lowers the risk of various types of cancers.
The tea industry is a labour intensive one. It gives employment to thousands of people. According to one estimate, it creates employment opportunities for almost 10 million people on an average. The best part is that it is not seasonal, like the sugar industry. Another advantage is that the workforce of the tea industry is equally distributed when it comes to the question of gender. One of the careers linked to this industry is that of tea tasting. In which a trained taster determines the quality of a particular tea.
Just like in other businesses the picture is not as pretty as is depicted on paper. There are NGO’s such as Action Aid who are fighting for the cause of tea workers in Assam. According to them by the Plantation Labour Act, the workers should get health care, child care facilities, drinking water and education. However, the workers are being deprived of these. Even in areas where they are being provided with these facilities, the quality is extremely poor. Half the workers in the tea gardens are women since they are considered to be better at plucking, weeding and cutting dead wood. The NGO says that the situation is so harsh that the women are being forced to work during and after their child birth.
To conclude, we can say that you can not separate the Indians from their tea. Be it a marriage, social get together/ business get together, nothing is complete without a cup of tea. We find it in every sphere of our lives.