the stain

it was yet another busy morning. i rode my way to the workplace, in the midst of the boob-to-butt traffic, humming a tune here, whistling a line there and attempting to keep my sanity in the midst of all the noise. i stopped off at the usual pit stop, the tea shop just before reaching my workplace, for the usual smoke and cuppa.

“make it nice and strong”, i requested the ‘master’. that is what they are called – the ones who make the tea or coffee. i understand tea is made and served in a hundred different ways. in this part of the world, there is one stove, on which water, along with tea leaves in this huge strainer, is brewing. on another stove, there is milk, boiled initially, and simmering – just warm enough to make a drink. tea is usually served in a transparent glass, unless the customer insists on a disposable plastic cup – something that i personally despise, and avoid. i’d rather bury my notions of hygiene – indeed, the cups are just given a bare rinsing in most places – than to consume another one of those despicable plastic thingies that would ultimately make this earth one bit more polluted.

when a cuppa is asked for, the ‘master’ usually throws in some sugar, half a measure of the decoction through the strainer with the leaves or dust as would be the case, and another half measure of the milk. the milk is usually diluted with a lot of water. the most interesting part is this admixture is then flung between a small mug, and the glass in which it would be ultimately served. the glass is held in one hand, below waist level, while the mug – with the tea – is raised in another hand, above the head, and is then tilted, till the tea falls into the glass. in its flight, the tea usually covers a distance of atleast a meter. the idea is to mix the content, while also frothing it up a bit. how they accurately do it, i am not aware, but this is a common sight in every tea shop that has caught my fancy for years now.

but i digress. the location of the ‘master’ is just at the entrance of the shop. the shop itself has a couple of tables inside, with a few chairs for those who preferred to be seated for their drink, and probably a snack. i usually prefer to stand out, in the open. today, i notice a young man inside the shop. he was tall, fair, dressed in an impeccable white shirt that was cripsly ironed out and a trouser to match. i thought he was incredibly good looking.

just when the ‘master’ was about to bring me my cuppa, this young man chooses to rush out of the shop, for some reason, and collides with the ‘master’. there was a good amount of tea that had spilled on his white shirt, leaving a dark brown patch. for a moment, there was just silence, nobody spoke. i looked on – the young man was just looking down at his tummy, where the shirt was stained. the ‘master’, he looked like he had seen a ghost. i could say that in those few seconds that elapsed, there was terror in his eyes.

in a moment, the young man looked up at the ‘master’, his eyes softening, and said, “go on with your work, it is ok”, while just placing his palm on the other man’s shoulder, as if to comfort him.

my tea arrived, and as i sipped it, i lit up, and wondered how i may have reacted had i been the one in the white shirt. i knew for sure that i’d have lost my temper, screamed, and stormed out of the shop, cursing the whole world till i got to work, and would have probably carried that mood through the day.

“it was nice of you to just smile if off”, i told him. he looked at me, and didn’t say a word, just smiled. i felt grateful, for the smile, and for the little lesson in life that he had taught me.


38 thoughts on “the stain

  1. It is strange as I realize that tea is not always made in the same way in mumbai. In the chai stall where I frequent near where I live, the entire concoction brews in one gas stove. Milk, water, sugagr, adrak, tea leaves everything in one big utensil and after the simmering, it is strained through cloth in a specialized big sized mug. From there it is dispensed in the transparent glasses without that wild excursion between the jug and the glass.Back in Kerala, I remember, the distance that an average tea drop travels in air is as remarkable as you describe.

  2. tea making is an art… but the tea masters are dwindling now… most of the time, i get tea served from a thermos.. the taste of the tea made in that special way is something different… itz so nice of that young man to smile and make the day of the tea master…

  3. Wow! on several levels.Who would have thought that tea making could have been explained/ expressed in such a vivid manner. Very interesting and wow.Some people do make the world a better place. It is always nice to bump into them once in a while.

  4. I love roadside tea – but I’m afraid I go for the disposable cup. I know it’s wrong, but I worry for my sensitive English stomach and two or three weeks is not long enough to acclimatise.

  5. Wow! abt the tea swinging thing.. i remember there ws a doodhwala who used to do tht at my nani’s place– everyday– and everyday the old woman wud fight him, saying the froth is just a tactic to give her less milk.. 😀

  6. very cute post. and the description of tea making…wow! i feel that good writing makes a person visualise what the author is saying and i was able to do just that when i read this post. thanks dharma:)n guess i ve to learn a few lessons from that young man myself:)

  7. Nice…Very nice picture you painted. It makes me want someone to throw tea on me, so I can smile and say ‘It’s okay!’ Also, makes me want to make some tea now! 🙂

  8. The magic of tea lies in that thick glass…and hygiene be damned…it tastes way better than those miniatures pieces…And that was a nice thing to have done for a person who wasn’t wrong…A smile does go a long way in cementing barriers…

  9. That was a nice gesture. Once a gal spilled juice on my dress n I smiled at her:”Thats ok. It happens.”Be it tea/juice mugs or spoons, they’re not cleaned properly at most hotels 😦

  10. dear DB, very insightful entry! i hv requested my significant other and our daughter to call me the Master ; ) Cos i am resposible for making all the teas in our household, am not much of a coffee drinker myself…. I said in my fatherland, tea makers are called such, so i wanna be called that too!!! hahahahha ; )

  11. KRIS,yes, i know what you’re talking. in many parts of north and west india, i realise tea is made that way…i am especially fond of the tea in kerala – it is nice and aromatic, and served in generous quantities.welcome here, kris, and thanks for dropping by :)XH,oh, i quite dislike the tea from the thermos – thats how we get tea at my workplace, but i prefer to run out a couple of minutes, and get myself a freshly made cuppa.DET-RES,thank you. and yes, i wish i bumped into them more often.VEENA,thank you, and i completely agree. to me, love encompasses everything – respect too…VEENA,i understand where you come from, z, and i think in some cases, there exemptions are always allowed :)VAIDYA_VAAKYA,i agree @ the staining ourselves and others bit.and welcome aboard!GAURI,ha! nice one that – and smart nani u got ;)UNPRETENTIOUS,thank YOU – it is a huge compliment 🙂 oh, and we all have to learn don’t we?RAMYA,make some, and some more for the bum too :)DEEPLYDIP,i can, and do have one at a lot of times of the day :)PRATS,welcome aboard!hygiene be damned alright – am with you ont he taste bit!thanks for dropping by – do come by more often.MANASA,nice of you to have smiled it off.ANON,:) – and that is the effect of such comments on such posts!thank you!SHINI,thanks!HDWK,really? well, thanks!BUDDY,welcome here, and well, sometimes, the nicest people i think smile inspite of all the inherent difficulties…MUSH,or should i call you, Master? 🙂 how have you been? warm wishes to you on eid…

  12. I have never tasted tea/ coffee in such shops though i’ve nurtured a fancy for it all these years. maybe i will try it one of these days.btw is this actually an expression- boob to butt?And in case you ever meet that young man ever again- get me his number 😉

  13. Your morning ritual is flung between peace and chaos and falls into fascination, froths with character. Your details fascinated and flowed so well, set me up with a vivid picture of your entire time at the tea shop. And this is at least the second time I’ve wondered if you’re a Pisces, because I would have done every single thing that you thought you might have done if tea was spilled on your perfectly pressed, pristine white shirt. Everything, down to being pissed off all day! But then, Bum, I’m beginning to know this more than that, that we never really know exactly how we’ll react or act in any given situation until that situation actually unfolds 😉

  14. I found it strange, because I did think you might have done the same, and not really stormed out of the place or anything. I haven’t seen you get angry with these things. :)Your post makes me smile, and definitely will remember the guy with a white shirt every time I spill something somewhere from this point on…Love you anna…

  15. So many times..we are so unaware of the lives of people and what all goes within and behind the minds of people!my mind scatters afster than the gas flowing in the gas stove spewing heat to think what all could it be!As usual a classy post with so much more within!

  16. Hello DB, Nice post. I have seen tea-making in teashops and drank in glass cups (!) too, on our way to Bangalore. But you have explained tea-making beautifully. The white shirt guy is developing a fan club! I would like to be like him, but can never be, I know!

  17. Can’t say much about tea, because I’m a tea-totaller (how clever of me!!). But as for patience with accidents, I have none. A tea stall would be an unexpected place to learn a lesson in that.Oh, and you can finally claim the award I have for you on my blog!

  18. Maybe the master is used to such accidents…? I don’t get how some of the tea doesn’t spill out in his shirt anyway when he is pouring it from such a height…Over here, tea never takes milk. And I drink mine without sugar, I prefer to taste the real flavour.

  19. beautiful…. it is a great quality you have to just introspect,,,, life’s day to day moments can be our best teacher…. i loved your way of writing…. the detailed way you explained the tea making was like a pictorial representation.

  20. Someday you must visit the chaiwala in the Jama Masjid complex in Delhi.It is not something you’ll forget easily. And the faces you’ll see there will probably remind you of Sindbad.

  21. ARPITA,i am not sure if it is an expression, but it sounded pretty nice to me :Pand don’t tell me you haven’t been to any of the tea kadais yet – shame on you i say!!MISSALISTER,i am no pisces, but then, i might just have that influence somewhere – you never know. i am beginning to realise that i am one big bag of confusion, in reality :)thank you for this.MUSH,am sure you did not, thank you!NITHYA,i find you letting me know a little more about myself – something i hadn’t known otherwise, and thank you for that. i love you too kid.ABHISHEK,the awareness of our ignorance is a huge task by itself. and thank you very much.SANDHYA,i tend to think we can be anything we want, provided we really want it. thank you!DEEPLYDIP,i am humbled. thank you :)TACHI,thanks!LAKSHMI,learning is for life, and those who know it, don’t stop learning.D,thanks, for the forcibly claimed(?) award :PDEVILMOOD,oh, they don’t spill much of it, i know that for sure. they just do it so perfectly, one has to watch it to believe it.NANDITHA,thank you so much!ANIL P,its good to see you here, as always.i don’t know when it will be that i had a chance to go to delhi next, but i will remember the jama masjid complex and look out :)MUSH,that is SO nice of you – warm wishes to you all too. and, hugs right back :)ASH,thanks, and a merry christmas to you too

  22. I love the chai at the chaiwallas..home-made tea never tastes so good.I think its the vessel they cook it in..since it is on the stove day and night with tea leaves..the vessel definitely adds to the falvor!!

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