Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Cup of Chai, Her Majesty's Way

To all the chai lovers out there, have you ever wondered how that hot, steaming brew reached your hands? No, no. I'm not here to explain the process of picking tea leaves and drying, and processing them into what you find in colourful packets in your local supermarket. I'm hear to rant about a trip that I took recently to one of the many tea estates in Kerala.

I took a road trip to Wayanad on 27th of last month. There were four of us and the destination was a tea estate bungalow in Wayanad that belong to one of the biggest business groups in India. The estate was one among the many the group owned in India. One among us had a friend who worked as the manager in one of those estates.

The bungalow was in the middle of the tea estate, old style, with sloping roofs, common to every tea estate. It wasn't built by the British and the architecture declared it openly. A long, narrow, winding, stone paved path took one to the bungalow from the foothills of the estate. It drive was about one and half kilometers, but it would take one about 20-30 minutes to negotiate it and reach the top, especially if it has rained. 


Surrounded by tall deciduous trees, the bungalow gives you a warm, cozy feeling. But the striking feature about the estate, the bungalow, and the need for this post is the culture being followed. It was the British who paved way for the development of the tea estates in Wayanad and Munnar. Even 67 years after the British left India, these tea estates still follow the British culture and hierarchy religiously. 

The estate managers are pampered in true British style. You've a full time cook, a house keeper, and a gardener to cater to your needs in the bungalow. Hot, steaming food is served round the clock. And you've people to cater to every need of yours - to make beds, to do laundry, provide you clean sheets, clean the house, tend to the plants, and what not! And they stand with utmost reverence and look up to their "masters". The managers are provided with an old Royal Enfield, company maintained and serviced. Add to that the fact that the official uniform for the managers is shirt/t-shirts tucked in with company issue half trousers complete with leather belts and shoes!

The final touch is added by the fact that the company still follows the system left by the British. We still find a lot of British Raj existing here openly. For example, the estates have a strict hierarchy system, and you've access to people only on a need basis. There is the manager, the assistant manager, the supervisor, and then the different classes of plantation workers. The managers are not allowed to mingle with the locals, or make purchases from any of the shops near the estate! All your supplies are to be purchased from the company owned store some 20-30 kilometers away!


Sometimes, we take things for granted. The manager of the estate tells me that there was an uprising among the estate workers recently that saw a lot of violence. As a remnant of the struggle, I had noticed two red flags on either side of the main gate leading to the estate. As you take a sip of the hot beverage and read this, you didn't know that there are a hundred stories to be told about that chai in your hand and how Her Majesty still influences the lives of thousands even after six decades of independence!

FootNote: The break was a much needed one and the drive was lovely. The Ritz came as a surprise with decent handling on the ghat road and a good mileage even though a good part of the journey was in first and second gears. The stay was awesome, the company was great, and the climate, lovely. I really wish I could spend more time in the estate.

ToeNote: The post was a long overdue one. The British feel intrigued me and left me uneasy. But due to my laziness, I couldn't find the time or energy to write it. I've always been a chai lover. I wanted to be a coffee lover, but it always ended up with the chai. And now, as I finish this post, I'm sipping on my cup of chai!

NailNote: The past week has been so phew! Hopefully, a post on it would be coming soon - The Week That Wasn't! :)

Monday, August 18, 2014

One of Those Nights...

It is one of those nights when you feel like the whole world had slept, leaving you awake and lonely. Another bout of insomnia; you feel like your legs are warm. No. Not warm. They are hot. And sweaty. You get out of the bed and walk to the washroom. You take the health faucet and direct the jet of water onto your leg. You feel the coldness of the water hit you as you stand there with closed eyes, reveling in an orgasmic comfort.

You get back to the bed, your legs still dripping the water onto the floor with each of your step. You feel dirty. I'm going to get all the dirt on the floor onto my leg, you think. You tip toe for the rest of the distance to the bed and jump onto it. You pull the comforter over your body. You can't sleep without a blanket, no matter how hot it is. You've strange habits. You know it too. But you decide to keep you feet peeping out of the comforter.

You stare into the roof, into the darkness that forms an oblivion at the moment. You can hear the fan but you can't see it. You lie there for a while to see if your eyes will get adjusted to the darkness and you'll be able to see the blades of the fan churning out circles. You can't!

You take out your mobile and go through your list of "friends" and acquaintances. You wonder how you define a "friend". Strange! You hadn't thought of that one before. Naah. You were always too lazy to define your relations, weren't you. You see no one to whom you want to talk to.

Wait! There's X. You haven't talked to X in a long time, have you? You ping her and wait for a reply. 5 minutes! 10 minutes! She hasn't replied. But then, it's 1 AM. She might be asleep, you tell yourself. OR she might be talking to someone else, tells the devil inside you!

You fight the urge to call her and see if her phone is busy or on call waiting! You didn't want to sound desperate and lonely. And more importantly, you didn't want to hurt your ego! It was already bruised, wasn't it? No, you say. Scratched, yes maybe, but not bruised, you explain.

Today. No no. Today is Monday already. Yesterday. Yes, yesterday she had got engaged. Who's she? One of the people whom you knew. Someone from a few years ago. She had invited you to the function but you had already told her you wouldn't come. She didn't ask for an explanation either. Now that you remember, you send her a message saying "congratulations". Full stop.

The legs are warm again. And sweaty too. It makes you restless. You move your legs up and down on the sheets involuntarily. You remember the movie, where they would use this to let the audience know that there's love making going on! Love making? Really? You're surprised at yourself! Okay. Fucking! Happy?!

Where did it all start. Wasn't the engagement. A couple of days earlier, you had decided to ping another friend whom you "knew"! Funny thing that she's always online yet you both haven't talked in years. You ping her. She pings you back. The pleasantries are over. Congratulate me, she says? What? Really? You're married?! You say congratulations. You knew she had a steady guy for many years now. But still. *sigh*  Another one down! You're looking for the nearest exit. Finally, you say I'm happy for you. Really, she asks you. No, not really, you tell the truth. After all, you had nothing to lose. You find your exit.

The heat is unbearable. You throw the sheets away and get out of the bed. You strip yourself off your boxers and tee and walks straight into the bathroom, naked. You turn on your rain shower. The cold water hits you like realization and you stand there soaking it up, your hands resting on the walls and the water trickles down you hair, to your face, your body, and onto the floor. One of those nights, you mutter to yourself as you drink up the drops of water on your lips!