and the day turns into a caravan of chai-breaks, inching forward along the beaten track of warm conversations.
Kashmiri chai - no, not kahwa - but the chai that Lucknow-wallas like to call kashmiri. The chai that the people of Kashmiri Mohalla reserve for very special occasions: Pink. Flavoured. All milk, no water. Loads of dry fruits, warm syrup. Children are allowed to drink this.
I detest it. I drink it.
A friend had once called me 'chai-premi'. Lover of tea.
My uncle tells me about 'his' tea. He says he's a connoisseur. "Use evaporated carton-milk. A little suffices, and it does not cool down the tea. And Lipton Yellow Label tea-bags. Only Lipton. Only tea-bags."
I smile a secret smile to myself... Connoisseurs are not lovers.
Tea is not about measures of xyz ingredients thrown together, on a flame.
It is about mornings, evenings, headaches, preferences, experimentation...
Hibuscus petals with honey. Ginger with Lemon. Ice with boiling water. Jaggery with cardamom.
Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.
Some days it works. Some days it doesn't.
Lovers don't dictate terms to the beloved. They are dictated to.
Chai will not always surrender to your whims. No matter how much you coax it, it will assert its independence. It will spoil itself, and thereby your mood.
There is no fixed 'time' for chai.
There is no definite method to chai.
There is no limit to the variation of form with chai.
You don't always get what you want in a cup of chai.
It is rarely excessive - as Kashmiri chai is - and when it is, you sometimes say 'no' to chai.
You get burnt if you don't wait before you take the first sip of chai.
And like I said, mamoo-jaan, connoisseurs are not lovers.