An (extra)ordinary cup of tea


As it happens, I misinterpreted this week’s photo challenge. Let’s set things right. Would you like a cup of tea?


cup_of_tea

Just before our last safari in Sariska, we decided to eat lunch at a dhaba. There was a row of small houses with thatched roofs along either side of the road running along the perimeter of the Wildlife Reserve. Two or three large aluminium vessels kept along a short wall were the only indication that they were eateries. Seeing the number of safari Gypsies* parked around them, we skipped the first few.

We got off the car and walked towards an empty house. Outside the porch was an open shed with a thatched roof supported by logs. Beneath the shed were a few plastic tables and chairs and charpoy. A man appeared from behind the porch and we enquired if food was available. It wouldn’t take long to prepare, he said.

We settled around one of the cots and made ourselves at home. A little while later, our host laid out the platter on the table next to us. Hot dal and sabzi with pickle; thick rotis, freshly baked in a tandoor, served with a generous amount of ghee; and on our request, curd from his own house right behind the restaurant.

In goes the roti to get baked in the tandoor
In goes the roti to get baked in the tandoor

Though simple, the food was delicious. He asked us if we needed another serving. When we said we were full, he asked if we would like to have some tea. Of course we did! As we waited for the tea, we pulled out our cameras.

A little while later, our host announced that the tea was ready. We noticed two little girls and their mother sitting beside the porch, near the entrance of the house — our host’s family. We sat near them on a makeshift bench made with a stone slab and sipped on the cardamom-flavoured tea. The elder daughter opened up easily and seemed to enjoy our attention. She told us her name and that she had just returned from her school. The younger one remained close to her mother. We learnt that they were farmers, and that they had finished harvesting their crop of corn. They said they didn’t sell the corn. Instead, they made flour to prepare rotis. A little later, we heard a baby’s cry. Our hostess left to attend to her youngest child inside the house.

We told our host that we had got a glimpse of a tiger earlier that day. He confirmed that there indeed was one nearby last night. In a very matter-of-fact way, he said it was most likely out hunting for prey, and that he had heard the call of a deer near his house. We wondered how it would be to live there. Growing a crop with whatever little income came from feeding a few highway passersby and stray wildlife enthusiasts, to live in a secluded part of the state without a proper address and wild tigers for neighbours.

We thanked our hosts for their hospitality and paid the very modest bill. Our hostess returned as we prepared to leave, and presented us some farm fresh corn to take home. And no, she clarified, they weren’t selling it.


* Gypsy – a four-wheel-drive off-road vehicle

dhaba – a roadside food stall
charpoy – wooden cot
dal – split lentils
sabzi – a vegetable cooked in gravy
roti – Indian flat bread
tandoor – clay oven that uses fire (from wood or charcoal) for heat
ghee – clarified butter

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “(Extra)ordinary.”

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kasturika

Stories, places, hobbies, musings, maybe the odd poem... Hopefully, all these seemingly random pieces will fit together one day to reveal the grand mosaic that the cosmic universe has planned for me.

20 thoughts on “An (extra)ordinary cup of tea”

  1. Yeah, Rajasthanis make a mean cup of chai, no?

    I particularly like their practice of pouring it piping hot between two glasses held at arms lengths, cooling it as it forms a thin stream through the air and foaming it like a sort of tea cappuccino.

  2. Hey, I only just noticed the roti pic.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen it cooked directly on coals before. I thought it usually goes onto a tawa (one way up for Hindus, the other way for Muslims) or slapped onto the wall of the tandoor resulting in a characteristic lopsided shape.

      1. My info is probably apocryphal.

        I was staying with a sadhu in Himachel Pradesh and talking to a Hindu friend while Baba Ram Nila made roti. My friend isn’t actually Hindutva but he’s still pretty chauvinistic. He commented that when Muslims make roti they use the tawa ‘upside-down’. I replied that they might think Hindus use it upside-down. He conceded “Probably. But they are wrong.”

  3. You know kasturika, when I was in India I was always upset and a little frightened by the inter-communal tensions that so often erupted, despite the oodles of goodwill I so often saw between Hindus and Muslims. I thought myself lucky to live in a country free from that kind of conflict.

    In the past decade or so I’ve been horrified to see Islamophobia gain a powerful foothold in Australia too. Though there are plenty of secular and Christian Australians who reject it they typically do so from a patronising position of ‘tolerance’ rather than a real sense of oneness with their Muslim compatriots.

    So much for my own feelings of cultural superiority.

    1. Tough times we live in. But I think humans have always been at war with each other on some pretext or the other. It’s just that there never was this thing called internet and there never was this need to keep blasting exclusive and breaking news.

      1. If it was just the news I wouldn’t be so worried. But these days I regularly talk to people who casually drop incredibly insulting and ill-informed views of Islam and Muslims with the complete authority of a know-it-all. Some of it is tantamount to the blood-libel used to justify European pogroms against Jews in the middle ages, yet the people who spread it would be very hurt to be accused of prejudice or bigotry, much less incitement to violence. Sometimes it’s so idiotic it would be funny if the potential consequences weren’t so serious.

        Australia has always had a strong racist streak – especially against my own Aboriginal people – but through most of my life I’d thought it was improving and would someday be a thing of the past. But since the mid-90s it’s been getting steadily worse.

      2. I’ve heard that sometimes things need to get really bad before they improve. Sometimes I wonder how much better animals are in these matters. If we were still nomads living in caves, earth would have been in a much better condition. Despite all this, there’s still an optimist in me. I still believe that people are by and large good at heart. We need to just look for the good folks around.

    1. 🙂 Thank you! Being in a different place,and to just relax without anyone judging you — a five star hotel will hardly give you that feeling (maybe in the comforts of your room, but not in public) that was the best part. I kicked off my sandals and sat cross-legged on the wooden cot under the shed — which, despite the heat, was surprisingly cool.

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