Daily doses of epiphany in the form of tea keep me going, especially at times of replenishing sadness. I used to love to walk, around school, then college and now in my university campus. On a walk, once, staring at happy tree lining on the roadside and listening to Bob Dylan in my head phones, I wish I could say it was “blowing in the wind” but perhaps another line of Dylan, I encountered a group of hooligans. That particular day changed everything; from how I felt about people in general to how I felt about moving around. I walked away unharmed physically but even going through the process of imagining yourself in concrete trouble can lead to everlasting mind break.
I book an Uber everyday thirty minutes before my class. I love to have tea before classes so usually I am holding a cup of warm sugar free tea while travelling on an Uber rickshaw, taking in the air of the city around me with quick sips of tea. Do you know the struggle it takes to keep your cup elated to a certain degree and the prospects of having had a comparatively larger sip! There happens to be a signal midway between hostel and university. I am not a very staunch believer but I do pray at least once a day; usually begging the gods to keep the signal closed so that I can finish the tea to my fill.
Tea is a very small word. Tracing its roots in colonization etc., the sub-continental tea consumption is usually regarded as an imperial economical endeavor. Traded for Opium, abused by imperial powers and subjected to astonishing delinquency, decocted tea leaves provide the world, today, the 2nd most consumed beverage after water. Tea cultures are particularly indigenous to the Eastern world, especially knowing that the fountainhead of such a culture also comes from the Chinese matcha culture.
Chai is the Urdu variant of tea. Sometimes there is a feeling that penetrates our minds post having a glorious cup of tea; a want for more. Sometimes we do entertain ourselves with another cup. Like liquor tea starts testing our minds and we usually keep on failing. This numbness is called nasha, intoxicant, in Urdu. Maybe it is not about the tea but the want, to attain more. Desire runs in our spinal cords. We all yearn for things, people, places etc. Associating tea to the want of company might seem a bit fanatic, given that how a lot of us loathe objectification of the self. But here’s a thing, why not. Often language fails us. We want to say nasha but the person opposite to us understands English only, and we, the labelled Orientals do not feel comfort in the words like intoxicants. What is puzzling, is the insatiable want, of expression. Living in a post-colonial society and growing up with a colonized curriculum, endemic ideas have always had a jaded priority in our brains. For instance, the choice of saying kameena, rascal, especially when the abuser astride is alien to Urdu.
Linguistic choices are complex. Chai is easy. Gulping down, sip by sip, we read Edward Said and try to decode the Orientalism philosophy. The thing about discourse, how it can have us tremble in our skins, for instance, the Panopticon theory of Foucault is very interestingly ticklish. Are we animals? Are we laboratory projects?
Acquainted with the Shennong Legend, my heart finds a momentary salvation in tea, like the legend traces the ramifications tea leaves are capable of instilling. When the hot liquid touches the tip of my skin, a gentle bubble is created in my mind. Tea is not a cure for the void. Tea is not a misprision in distraction. Like intoxication, tea desire is not very compelling. Sometimes it’s just the spark of the liquid that brings me in contact to my saddening unconscious – sometimes it’s just the pristine glow of a cup made nicely in haste.
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