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.