50 Shades of Tea, Our Paradise in the Prison

My dad always says this line, “Chai jaisi bhi ho, jahan bhi ho,  jiski bhi ho – pee leni chahiye”. What it means in English, is that “One can just drink a cup of tea – at any time, anywhere, or with anyone”. While growing up I probably never understood this line, but today I understand exactly what my father always meant.

For some reason, my parents never encouraged us to drink tea when we were young. We were given milk and were always told that we will take up these adult habits on our own as we grow up. I think coming from a Muslim family, the most adult beverage for them ever was a cup of tea!

When I turned 18, I moved to another city for my higher education or in simpler words, to study Engineering. Living in a completely residential university far away from the city, I was dependent on the hostel mess for every drop and bite of food. Eventually, unable to find my ideal glass of bournvita and milk, I was compelled to drink my first cup of Tea. During the first few months, that tea was only a state of liquid to gulp in the dry unchewable food. But probably even I didn’t realise when did that tea stopped becoming a resource to push food down my throat, and became a reason to sit in the hostel mess for that extra one hour and have conversations to the moon and back!  Very soon, without us having the slightest hint, our Hostel ki Chai became an emotion. Perhaps, that was the first time I could feel what my father had been saying for years, that tea is something which unites people, kindle thoughts and embrace cultures.

Over the 5 years of living with the same people in the same hostel, we saw different different shades of tea. The shades would differ sometime because of the unavailability of the milk and sometimes because of the availability of emotions. And with all the roller coasters of our journey, one thing which was always constant, was a cup of Tea. That cup has come in our lives in forms of new year resolutions of drinking green tea every morning. Or to act posh by having make-believe “High Tea” conversations. Or just any other reason to hold a warm cup in our hands and stare at the gleaming sky all night long!

Tea in hostel came to me in different shades and tones. Within every chaos, within every moment of haywire, if I look back at time, tea was always the common thread. Amongst all of which, these were my favourite shades of our whole heartedly cherished Hostel ki Chai:

The “there, there” Tea:

As many of us would recall moments in Big Bang Theory. Whenever Sheldon would find anyone upset or disappointed, he would make them a warm cup of tea and console them by saying the two magical words, “there, there”. Sharing the same hard disk for watching all the TV series, I think our entire group of friends had made a similar tea tradition for all the break-ups, family drama or flunking in Engineering Maths II! I remember the day we all as a group were feeling too heavy inside, the reason being that our kettle (in which we used to warm water to make tea) was caught by the hostel warden, hence we all made a cup of Ice Tea for ourselves before we whined the night away. As for every low, there was always a kettle switched on!


Exams ki Chai:

Now a very interesting college system in our country is to cage the girls inside the hostels at night! I think my college was the proud knight rider of this scheme. Every day at sharp 10pm, our hotel gates would close and hence would be the closure of the source to any kind of snacks or our beloved tea! Now in usual days, this was not that big of an issue for us. But during exams, we obviously needed something to wake us up all night! Realising this fact soon, our hostel authorities arranged for night tea. Every day from the first day of our exams till the last one, we used to have a huge dispenser of Tea to our service, kept at the common room sharp at 10:30pm. I think during exams, we girls had at one point, started looking forward to getting locked up in our hostel, because the garma-garam tea will be served at night. We used collect mugs of the biggest possible sizes (at times even thermos flasks too) to pour in as much tea as we can because man! tea can make you stay awake! For all those sleepless nights, our cup of tea was our only companion. Without those cups of warm tea at night, never would we ever be able to finish those books as heavy as our weight!

Sneak-peak Tea:

One of the most disturbing classes for any engineering student will always be that of Mathematics II. Between the Laplace and the Fourier, our misery always lied. Now imagine a class as incomprehensible as that, coupled with the most boring tea ever! Then the result of every Laplace Transform used to come as a cup of warm Tea! Now how do you drink tea in a class without your master knowing about it? Ah! The beauty of college desks with little drawers in them. You know, the drawers which were made to hold your books, pens, registers, etc.? Well in our class they used to hold Tea cups and Britannia Good Day biscuits. I probably can never count the innumerable times when we have spilled the tea all over us or our hands or in the poor drawers out of fear of getting caught! But did that ever stop us from not bringing a new cup of tea to the class? Well I think if B.Tech never made us engineers, it definitely made us fearless! So every day, lovely cardamom tea from our college canteen would arrive in amount of a litre, distributed secretly to everyone, and with every binomial distribution, the entire class would make low slurpy nods!

The High Tea and the Low Tea:

I think the most depressing part of living in a prison is that you have these make-believe parties to make yourself feel better every now and then. Now with such low pocket money and living on the outskirts of the city, there is very little that one can manage for a party. So our usual used to be high-tea, where we would arrange for Tea Bags collected from various hotels and restaurants, English breakfast, Assam Tea, Darjeeling Tea, Green Tea, etc. and pretend posh! I know, I have already said it’s the most depressing thing ! But the only good part about our parties used to be conversations over tea. Chai pe charcha, as one may call it. There is a reason why tea is the most consumed beverage in the world after water and beer! Tea is a conversation starter, something which you can drink anywhere, anytime or with anyone, that is the beauty of the soulful drink. Sitting on the roof top, staring at the world outside with a cup of tea in our hands, we have travelled time.

The best part about tea is that it is utterly easy to make and amazingly healthy for your body. There can’t be another drink with so many nutrients packed inside a cup. Tea in the most true sense revitalises your body, your mind, your soul. It gives you the kick to achieve anything and everything, and most importantly it gives you the courage to get up in the morning for college or work every day! I have the most profound emotions with every cup of tea that I have had in my hostel days. Every sip had a story to say. Every ounce had a tale to tell. I can blabber all day on the infinite cups of tea that me and my friends have had in those 5 years. I am grateful to my parents to not let me drink tea in school because now I have a new connection with the drink.

Tea came to me in different shades.

  • Green Tea to fulfill new year resolutions
  • Kadak Chai to stay awake all nights during exams
  • Assam and Darjeeling Tea for the terrace night
  • Black Tea for times of unaffordable milk sachets
  • Long Island Iced Tea for, you know, the rich times (usually soon after coming from home)

In colours, in tones, in stories, in tales; there has been a cup of tea knitted closely to our lives. I cannot imagine another beverage which may supplement this warm cup. It truly has been our companion for years for every moment of joy and every dot of distress. To Tea or to not Tea has never been a question because as my Dad says, “Chai jaisi bhi ho, jahan bhi ho,  jiski bhi ho – pee leni chahiye”.

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