Few things are more pleasurable than hotel breakfasts. Who doesn’t love elaborate spreads of baked goods, eggs and cold cuts, chicken and vegetables dressed in ways one only sees in beautifully illustrated volumes of the 1001 Arabian Nights? What a splendid start to the day! What I actually love about these busy spreads is that their variety replicates the random jumbles in the way my mind works. Too many things going on and I’d like to have a bit of everything!
In Delhi, for a short four days, I longed for a cup of tea made from milk that had been tediously heated over a low flame for a considerable amount of time. That familiar flavor I recognize as tea. Day after day, I was served a tea that I didn’t quite like. I must say they had the nicest, most rich croissants which I savored delightfully. To have that one mug of tea, I ate three croissants. That was my justification. It played beautifully well in my mind.
Here are some tea sketches I did in Delhi:
My relationship with tea
My day begins with a mug of tea. Nothing rare there.
I’m pretty sure a lot of you begin yours the same way or perhaps with some coffee. As a child, I had seen my mother relish this hot beverage with rusks, plain white bread, leftover roti and sometimes, even khichdi. I’d park myself somewhere around her and after a few minutes of hovering around; of testing my own curiosity, I’d rest my elbow on her thigh (as she sat cross-legged), lean in and make my presence felt. I would have a few spoons of whatever she was having and then graduate to taking the bowl or cup away, balancing my greed with politeness, asking, “Can I finish the rest of this?” Funnily, this habit of poking one’s elbow into someone’s thigh, was something all of us children had, and was bothersome to the adults, to say the least.
Not much later, sipping tea became our 3pm ritual. The comforting click and the short, tapping melody of the stove-knob conditioned me to be in a chatty, happy frame of mind. If I wouldn’t hear these familiar sounds, I would draw a cup of tea on a paper torn from a note book and slide it under the door of her room (As I write this, I have just realized how this relates to what I do now- food illustration). One of these drawings is still tucked in a book somewhere at home. I had a tea-and-Maaza-mango phase, and another tea-and-kulfi phase, where I would first have one of the mentioned store-bought goodies (mostly while waiting for the tea to be ready) and then have a mug of tea.
Tea would either be brought in a bowl so it would cool down faster and I could get on with my homework or whatever else I had to do, or in a large mug. Later, as we shopped together for household items, I would influence my mother to pick up things that had freebies taped on the outside. This way, we added two red Kit Kat mugs and plenty of soup bowls (free with Afia oil) to our collection of mugs. This was different though, because we always bought ‘sets’ of things, never a single piece. There were always sets of six or twelve to everything. These gaudy freebies with their bold lettering and colors had a kitsch quality that registered as ‘trendy’ in my 13-year old mind and I loved it. Therefore, my mother did too. Shopping for household items still remains an enjoyable activity for me and freebies still make me happy. (Yes, I own plenty of Happy meal toys)
Even today, I am very specific about the cup/ mug I want to have tea in. Friends and family gift me mugs very often and each of these have been my favorite at some point. These days, my morning tea is served in a coral Snow White mug gifted by my sister. The cup is special because it has a little ornate pedestal and is shiny yellow inside, like a halo for my tea.
My day begins with a mug of tea. And now you know why.