Sitting in the verandah, solving crossword puzzle and catching some wintry sunshine, I felt a deep urge to indulge in a cup of masala tea.
I called out to my cook and he obsequiously asked, “Yes Bhabhiji”.
“Make me cup of nice masala chai, Ramu.” I ordered.
“Ji Bhabhiji.” And he turned to leave.
“Wait, listen” I called out aloud, “make a cup of strong coffee instead.”
“Theek hai” he replied and turned around.
Two steps further and I shouted again, “Ramu, let it be tea only.”
Puzzled Ramu asked, “Kya bhabhiji, itna confuse kahe hai.”
“Nahi nahi, chai is final.” I assured him and let him reach the kitchen this time.
Waiting for my tea and staring at the crossword puzzle, some amusing thoughts stir my imagination. I feel two beings emerge in my head and personify themselves. These hot and steaming creatures take me by surprise and sit up ready for a no nonsense tete-a-tete.
The cappuccino, frothing at the rim with a swirl of hazelnut and a sprinkle of cocoa, looks swish in its nouveau popular avatar. While tea with a whiff a ginger and a dash of cardamom and clove amalgamating in joy, wears a more modest look though not sombre.
The creamy cappuccino in its new regalia won’t break the ice and so the chai gingerly spoke, “Hi, I am masala tea and you must be cappuccino?”
Thus swayed the cappuccino. “Well that’s not all that I am Miss Tea. I am hazelnut laced cappuccino with cocoa twirls.” An air of nuts and beans all around it and the froth brimming with smugness as it spoke.
“You rather look plump in your elaborate concoction” commented tea with raised eyebrows and a hint of sarcasm trailing behind.
“What would a simpleton like you know about it anyway” sizzled cappuccino with sly smiles from end to end. “Exotic varieties of my beans travel across the world from Brazil, Ghana,… doubt if you have even heard of it.”
All traces of civility are thrown out of the window by tea at this.
“Oh how slighted I feel in your company Miss Coffee but you probably don’t know that I have my own international variants.” And so Miss Tea let out her steam.
“Ha! International variants” repeated coffee mockingly… “And where are your international variants sold from little Miss Tea? From the road side 4 by 4 wooden cubbyholes? Don’t tell me you are that incongruous. “
Tea looked a wee bit defensive but not embarrassed.
“While you get poured in tiny little containers still dripping of dirty water, I sit on polished tables in designer cups. That’s called being progressive Miss Tea” continued coffee’s rant.
“And charge a bomb for that 100 ml espresso shot” puffed tea. “Progressive my foot. That’s progression indeed and geometric one at that” completed tea matter of factly.
“Oh there comes the red wagon communist” gnarled coffee.
“Hey don’t you politicize the matter” grunted tea.
“Well, that bomb is charged not for a 100 ml espresso alone my dear” spurted coffee “but for the experience, the ambience and the feel that comes with it.” And she tossed her froth sideways. “But what would a naïve like you know? Have you heard of people chilling out with friends and families sipping Kappi Nirvana? It’s relishing.”
“Wwwait what did you just say, chilling out?” interrupted tea. “Do you know how it feels to find a tea stall in the middle of a wintry night, warming your palms against the glass of hot steaming tea and sipping it, while you and your friends get goose bumps together? Now that’s chilling out literally and metaphorically” lashed out tea all in one go.
“Ok ok stop singing your own paean” sputtered coffee in discomfiture.
“Why great coffee, can’t handle little Miss Tea?” she reproached “but let me finish. I have just spoken of winters yet, don’t you know about monsoons? Garama garam pakode (or call it bhajiya or bhajji) and ek garam pyali chai is the most unbeatable combination that this country knows to savour copious pour of love by the Rain God.”
“Oh shut up you prissy obsessed thing”, spoke coffee irritated. “While you still need those hors d’ oeuvres to accompany you, I am stand alone and enough to enjoy the rhythm of rain drops cutting through the canopy of palms. And the aroma of my beans is enough for gastronomical titillation.”
Both grimaced at each other and turned away as if preparing for another attack.
It was coffee who fired the shot again. “And while you feel so proud in your tea stall, I have swayed demographics in my favour.” Her froth seemed to swell in pride. “Do you realize I have caused a sort of cultural morphosis. From young to old, from college goers to executives, from exchanging notes to striking business deals, it is all done in my presence no matter what time of the day.”
Tea was quiet for a moment as if thinking about a counter attack and she stammered, “So what. It’s not such a big deal.” She didn’t sound convincing this time, a bit on the defensive mode. “People still have tea parties, I haven’t heard of a coffee party yet.”
“Oh come on Miss Tea, you can’t be serious” guffawed coffee. “As if you don’t know, a tea party has every mocktail in its menu while you just lag behind somewhere obscurely for namesake.” she teased.
Tea did feel a little self-conscious at that. She realized there was some image make-over needed like it happened to coffee but she wasn’t going to give in yet, “you may be for the classes Miss Coffee, but I am for the masses.”
“Whatever” dismissed coffee with an air that blew her forth right into my face. And through it I saw my chai turned cold in its cup.