Chai Chai…!




Chai Chai…!

‘Tea, coffee or…?’  real cheesy line of yesteryears!

Tea would be for most of us, in daily mornings, family evenings, work breaks, in between studies, for the masses as well as for the classes. Yes in airport lounges though we hold the boisterous coffee cup for a while succumbing to somewhat peer pressure may be, yet most of the time we Indians have that Dil Se connection with chai is it cutting, adrak wali, doodh patti ( I never knew it existed), masala chailemon tea…just strikes a chord with heart and the cup of freshness plucks the strings just at the right places.

Reminiscence of childhood summer vacations often takes me to the lush green tea gardens of one not so famous tea estate owned by the Tatas, Hathigor tea estate!

My grandpa’s quarter was my idea of a big house, three bedrooms, one living room and the huge space in front of the house and the larger backyard along with a big garden full of mango, Jamun, jackfruit trees and yes a pair of toilets almost hundred metres away and just beyond the toilets there was this wire fencing and acres of green tea gardens almost covering the horizon!

Tea garden labours were heard chatting, and blabbering as they made their way to the gardens in the morning and while they returned in the evening after the siren. The tea leaf factory was nearby, we could hear the machines buzz, look at the exhaust fans roll and smell the warm whiff of tea leaves, especially at night. Naturally being from this land, tea was our go-to drink once you reach adolescence or teens, for those evenings with chai samosa or chai pakoda or dipping those Marie biscuits or rusks in the morning, or those late-night study sessions with a cup of laal sa ( Assamese for black tea)may be.

Being a hardcore foodie, I know tea lovers will vehemently oppose, for me tea was always an accompaniment for muri bhaja, biscuits, dalmoth and without snacks, I’d be lost with my cuppa like a rudderless ship! Though sometimes for the sake of long hours of study did manage a biscuit less cup of tea  but no not at all my cup of tea exactly. Getting hitched with someone who can gulp gallons of tea changed the equation a bit and I began to long for my morning and evening cuppas as my habit, needless to say with accompaniments galore.

Rainy days calls for chai pakoda, as ideal as it gets for a combo and with it, if you add the bong quintessential adda and some music, heaven it is! Winters too just hanker for tea, the warm cuppa dealing with the chill especially if it is served in bed and you just need to get one arm out of the blanket to hold the cup! That’s called bliss.

Sipping tea with elders was considered the first official entry into the adult world! College canteen, umpteen cups of runny tea with occasional matthi, balusahi, literal storms over teacups, from politics to art, tea has seen it all. Slipping through the backdoor, buying sweets and samosas to be served with tea for the unannounced guest! Well, guests if at all, aren’t unannounced anymore.

Back in Assam, we love our tea with the strong flavour of tea leaf while here in the north it’s more milk and ginger and masalas. All said and done nothing like this concoction for our Indian minds to rejuvenate, refresh, give soul to our addas… and from the tea gardens of childhood to the solitary chaiwala humming Chai Chai untiringly in the wee hours past midnight in a compartment with passengers peacefully tucked in their blankets!

Bhai do baje koi chai lega’  Someone spoke with exasperation.

Kya pata sahab!‘   He  went on,’ Chai Chai’

Still, railway stations and train compartments reverberate with the sound… Chai Chai…. Chai anyone!

Time for my evening tea.

Axom deshor baagisa re suali...after all…as Bhupen Da had mentioned! (Girl from the tea gardens of Assam!)



Soma Bhattacharjee






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