Today, I'm going to be frivolous and (thus absolving myself of all charges of 'earnestness') talk about chai.
I have finally discovered why I didn't have any special feelings for chai, until recently: it was because I grew up in Rajasthan!
On my last trip to Madhya Pradesh (I was in one of the Rajsthan-bordering villages), as I settled down with a cup of hot tea, I almost threw up. And the memories came flooding back!
My childhood distaste for that sweet-salty brackish liquid that most grown-ups I knew drank in alarming quantities, and which, to my relief, I was not allowed to drink until I turned 18.
When I did turn 18, I never touched tea voluntarily. Brewed with tulsi and black pepper, the concoction was often forced down my throat when it (the throat) was sore. But how could anyone actually like that brackish, calcium-laden, salty brew? Or so I thought.
It was in Bombay that I discovered the joyous addiction called chai... Darjeelings, Nilgiris, Assamese brews, hibiscus, rose, mints, lemons, cinnamons, masala, gingery, milky, without...
And in Lucknow, I was introduced to the vast potential of this brew, the high talent associated with creating variations on the theme.... the angrezi chai, the desi chai, the soporific chai, the wake-me-up chai, the keep-me-up chai, the keep-hunger-at-bay chai, the let's-talk-at-leisure chai, the we've-got-guests-coming-over chai, the majlis' pink chai, the old-woman's chai, the baby-indulgence chai, the diabetic chai, the insomniac chai....
I love chai. But when in rural Rajasthan, or Madhya Pradesh, or any place where my soap refuses to turn foamy in the bath, I refuse to drink chai.