Tea Please!

For a 1-night trip to a destination 4 hours away, there really was no need for me to act like the Sergeant Major in Akbar’s Army about to embark on the Battle of Panipat. I can imagine him inspecting the elephants, looking over the horses, asking the chief trainer why it is taking so long to domesticate rhinoceroses, talking to the kitchen manager to make sure enough supplies have been packed for the long march ahead etc.

My tasks as I went about the house gathering things were just as varied. Make arrangements to feed the fish, take care of the trees, pack the snow pants, gloves and caps, butler up and pack the food, take on spare shoes, DVD, audio books, physical books, kindles. By the end of all this impressive bustling, the car trunk looked reasonably well occupied. The children and their parents were all counted and loaded. We backed out of the garage when I yelped like a cat that caught a stray pellet from a naughty child.  It was as if a bolt went through me. “What?”,  WHAT?”, “Amma!” the voice modulation on each expression would have had Opera teachers proud. I murmured a sheepish ‘Sorry’ and scampered off to get a last minute something from the kitchen. I prudently hid it in the handbag.

“What did you miss?”

“Yes – Amma. The car is full of stuff!” said the daughter who had made the last seat into a sort of villa with curtains, pillows and a blanket. I doubt whether Emperor Akbar was as comfortable in his royal palanquin as she was.

“I’ll tell you later.” I said in a mysterious tone, donning a serious expression, for I was sure to be ticked off had they known what the commotion had been about.

I don’t know about you, but I find being perfectly dressed a chore. By perfectly dressed I mean for the weather. Take for instance, Tuesday. I checked the weather forecast, and it looked pretty much the same as Monday. On Monday, I felt like a shaved penguin in Patagonia, for it might have been bright, but it was tooth-chatteringly cold even indoors. My cotton slacks and sandals were struggling to keep bodily warmth and by the time I stumbled into the house and drew up in front of the heater, I was beginning to lose feeling in my toes.  So, the next day, I turtled up and wore, I mean, I bucked up and wore a turtle neck sweater, closed shoes and went proudly, only to be sweating mildly.

Anyway, the point is, when I mess up on such a grand scale while looking at the weather forecast for a place I live in, I can be pardoned for messing up on a trip, right?

We started out from Spot A to Spot B. Spot A clearly thought it was May, and had asked the sun to shine that way, while Spot B thought it was January. It is only when we got down from the car to take in the breath-taking view that one realized that breathing in was alright only because the air does not freeze.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 9.48.04 AM

Chill-blaines crept up within an hour of being exposed and when I dashed into the department store for some milk, my mind was craving a good cup of tea.

“We can stop at Starbucks!” said fellow car-inmates, but I scoffed on an impressive scale even if I had to swallow some cold-ish air in the process.  I stuck my nose up in the air and said that Starbucks may have gotten a lot of things right, but an Indian tea? No Sir. Epic Fail. I miss the good old cuppa Indian tea more than I can say on trips like these.

A few minutes later, we had washed up ashore inside our rental spot and I was rattling about in the kitchen. The children got their hot cocoa and I made us some impressive Indian tea scented with cardamoms and ginger. Just the right amount of tea, right amount of sugar at the right temperature.

Tea Please
Tea Please

Allow me to enjoy a moment of contentment with the tea. When you visit a place like this, it is but natural to view the hot cuppa tea with a devotion meant for divinity.

Once the tea had made its way in and warmed our innards, I confessed that it had been for the tea that I had dashed into the house at the last minute.  All was forgiven, and I got the indulgent eye from everyone. “You and your tea!”

Yes. Me and My tea and proud of it! Well, even NPR covered the tea:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2015/02/24/359888857/tea-tuesdays-the-chemis-tea-of-pouring-the-perfect-english-style-cuppa

In the words of George Orwell:

Much might be written about the subsidiary uses of tea leaves, such as telling fortunes, predicting the arrival of visitors, feeding rabbits, healing burns and sweeping the carpet.

http://www.brainpickings.org/2013/05/14/george-orwell-a-nice-cup-of-tea/

P.S: This has already become a decent length blog.  I just might follow it up with another tea-blog for, ‘Traveling and Tea’ brings so many memories flooding into the brain.

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Bubbling Brooks on Valentine’s Day

I first noticed it in the morning. I had a can of milk in one hand, a foot stuck in the door to keep the refrigerator open, something in my mouth and asked the toddler, who ran into the kitchen, a question. Larks might be brighter in the mornings when they chirp, but I haven’t seen one to compare and contrast. Anyway, he walked/ran into the kitchen at a brisk pace.

I asked him whether he would like cheese in his lunch-box that day. He stopped his brisk walk, looked at me seriously, took a deep breath like he was meditating by puffing out his cheeks (One might think I’d asked him his opinion on the world’s most serious problem), and then made a sound that sounded like a bubbling brook in a stream.

Mornings, are however, not the best time for me to notice bubbling brooks or streaming croaks for that matter. Unlike the lark, spark, gay, bright morning-person, I am a groggy potato head. The head still feels under the weather and the nose tip mysteriously shows a twitch to point itself towards the covers of the bed just vacated.

The same thing happened later in the evening when I asked him if he wanted a chocolate biscuit or a cheese cracker. I laughed and moved on. When it happened for the third time that evening, he bubbled over without being asked a question, I stopped to ponder. Was the bubbling-brook-laugh telling me something? It turns out it was.

Bubbling Brook or River
Bubbling Brook or River

So I tried to figure out what caused it. It wasn’t that he was practicing the bubbling-brook-laugh, for he laughed multiple times without screwing his face up with intense concentration, taking a deep breath, and puffing out his cheeks. It must have been something else.

After a few minutes, I gave it up for the moment. Things at dinner-time had hotted up nicely when a glass of water was tipped over. I had a real waterfall sound to deal with, and the b. brook went out of my mind.

Later that night, as we lay in bed swapping bedtime stories, I asked him what they all planned to do for Valentine’s Day. He started to tell me, when his older-and-presumably-wiser sister popped in. “Hey! Scoff like I taught you to. Remember she is saying something cheesy!” she said and showed him to scoff Disney-style.

I watched him and right enough, he did it again. He bubbled his laugh like a brook. Only he did not know what cheesy meant, so every time I made a reference to cheese, he ‘scoff’-ed like a b.b. Ha!

Some mysteries are worth it. Happy Valentine’s Day even if you do scoff at the idea.

A Quiet Interlude

Every once in a while, an author comes along and makes you stop and think. It started with this one:

Miss Read
Miss Read

Link to another blog of mine where I referred to Miss Read:

https://nourishncherish.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/miss-goodie-two-shoes/

From then on, life is a sweet song as you crave for every work of theirs. I like uplifting material in general, and Miss Read provides just that. She has a sunny, optimistic outlook on life and chronicles life as it unfolds around her in the English country-side. She does not shy away from the harsher realities of life such as alcoholism or poverty.  She manages to capture her characters with wit, sometimes scathing social commentary, but she is always charitable toward them and grants them the benefit of being human while navigating life. Every character is endearing in their own way.

Who was the author who said that, we all make a great effort to see how different we are from one another, yet, it is not how different we are from one another, but how we are like one another that shines through?  Anyway, that is how I feel when I read Miss Read’s books. She may have written about a small village in the British Isles. Yet, I feel I know people like them. People who I willingly or otherwise encounter in my life. People I can pop in to have tea with and people who will be there for me when I need them. For that, I am always grateful.

Her books were written in post-war England through the 60s and 70s. There are a few novels that she set in an earlier era and I was reading one of those when a particularly poignant piece of prose moved me enough to let a tear-drop fall. She had captured, once again, like numerous others before and after her, the heart-wrenching impact of lost lives and severed limbs that is the effect of war.  She had written about a cold morning in early 1915 when the family residing in the village town of Caxley was affected by the War.

There I was sitting and reading about it on a cold morning in early 2015 and it sent a shudder through my heart.

My uncle passed away a few days ago. He was 101. I sat there thinking that he was born around the time the First World War started. He served in the Second World War ( A fact I did not know about him till after his death). He rarely spoke about his time in the War, for he was a gentle soul and war jarred on him. I fervently hope that our Earth will not have to endure any more wars, but that is wishful thinking. As long as there are human-beings, there will be conflict. We can only hope that we gain enough tolerance to settle down together, minimize our losses and learn to live happily. He lived through India’s fight for Independence, (including hard times in his own fortunes), and a half-century of post-independence history. We all remember him as a sweet and gentle soul with a ready smile, a good encouraging word to share for everyone, a tower of strength to his wife, sister and daughters and a lover of knowledge.

A few days later, an aunt passed away. She was 82. She may not have had the worldly outlook that the uncle had, for she was busy battling a tough life. Stricken with polio at the age of ten, I think her life was one hard song. Yet, when I think of her, the first thing that my brother and I can remember is when she came and stayed with us for a few months during a particularly rough patch in our life. She was there limping her way with enthusiasm never wincing to take on an ounce of extra work, never complaining that her leg impeded her. She was happy amidst the fruits and vegetables that were aplenty in our home and showed her gratitude by cooking sweet rice (pongal) and offering it to the Lord everyday. We begged her to go easy on the sweets, for they were not going easy on our waist-lines and she said, “As long as you make the offering to God first, you will not put on weight!”

My father, a compassionate man, told us not to stop her, for she had never seen plenty. ‘We will lose the weight easily enough, but can you see her this happy?’ (I don’t think the father lost the weight easily enough, but that is a side-point)

That had been our little joke for years. It morphed into various statements:

Tuck into the chocolates – if your heart is good, you won’t put on weight.

Plunge into the rasgollas – if you are happy, you won’t put on weight.

Bite into the almond cakes – if you are grateful for it, you won’t put on weight.

Wade into the payasam – even the Gods drank nectar, and they never put on weight.

You get the gist.

Both of them lived long, rich and diverse lives spanning a century. They watched lifestyle changes, outlook changes, political drama, technological advances, personal challenges – good and bad. How often we don’t stop to think what the person next to us has undergone? How often we think of ourselves, our voices and our motives alone, without stopping to think about another person’s perspective?

We can learn from everyone’s example and everyone’s mistakes . I hope life brings with it a certain wisdom while retaining the enthusiasm to learn and try new things.

http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/03/11/a-short-guide-to-a-happy-life-anna-quindlen/

Happy GroundHog Day

A busy January rolled into February.

I see you rolling your eyes, nodding your head and saying, “Well, do Januaries roll into April?” Probably making a side note as to how the unhinging need not have happened so soon and so on. But as I stepped out on a walk, that is exactly how I felt. Cherry blossoms that usually start peeking out in March and filling out with beautiful scented flowers in April already seem to be scenting the beautiful air. After a brief spell of rain in December, the clouds have moved on, leaving behind green hills and cherry blossoms in January. The days have a magical quality about them that makes staying indoors seem like a shame.

Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Blossoms already?

You can, therefore, understand my wanting to utilize the gorgeous day over the week-end to step outside and go to the park with the family. I huffed and I puffed, but the family, behaved like reluctant groundhogs and burrowed themselves deeper into the earth and refused. Imagine my surprise the next day to see that in a fit of gallant enthusiasm, the husband and daughter had prepared a picnic lunch and had it packed and ready. I could have swooned if a passing sofa had not lent me its sturdy support.

After the picnic, we took a short walk by a pine and eucalyptus tree lined path. We stopped to peer down at the marvelous surroundings when a biker told us all about some prehistoric rocks that we could find if we kept going.

Can I see dinosaurs?
Can I see dinosaurs?

“I can see dinosaur?” asked the breathless toddler all-a-twitter, whose curriculum now includes dinosaurs. I  hated to break it to the fellow that he was a few million years late at chancing upon dinosaurs, but we settled down to see a groundhog instead.

Anything that requires stopping and peering down at something is always a huge hit with the son, who will willingly stop at every daisy or squirrel. So, the groundhog really was a bonus, though a bit of a step down from a dinosaur. To see a groundhog on Groundhog day was exciting.( Shh! It might have been a mole. I am not the best at distinguishing species.)

I also read this article that said that in earlier times, Groundhog Day was not simply a day to welcome Spring, but also to eat groundhogs.

http://time.com/3685895/groundhog-day-history/

Err …. Happy GroundHog Day was exciting enough for us. I am in no hurry for Happy Dinosaur Day.