Travel

A Cup of Chai

It was this time last year that I came back from India.

In fact, at the time of my writing this, I would’ve still been on the plane: knocking back free G&T’s with too much gin and reading a novel by Chetan Bhagat whilst reminiscing of the final meal I had ever had in India (marble cake bought from Costa coffee at Mumbai airport, and yes, as much as it shames me that I didn’t have puri or dosa, it was 2am and my stomach and tiredness just couldn’t handle a hot meal. Instead I like to pretend that my final meal was from Janta Sweet Home in Jodhpur, even though it was a damn good piece of cake).

I miss India. Being a vegetarian’s paradise and the main reason I chose the country for my first long-term solo travel trip, I miss Indian food exceptionally. Three times a week I’d hop into a rickshaw and go to the local sweet shop, buying only three pieces at a time because I know my greediness and the fact I would eat more if I had them in my possession. Many times I trekked into town with the other volunteers, where we’d tuck into the best lassi by the clock tower, have baingan bharta overlooking Mehrangarh Fort, and drink iced coffee which took 20 minutes to prepare but was worth every single moment of waiting. I also drank chai. Every. Single. Day. Oftentimes twice a day. I was generally found with chai either prepared by my guesthouse, cafés down the road or by street vendors. I counted that I’d had 57 cups of chai about three weeks in and 24 gulab jamuns. After that, I stopped counting and started ignoring when my sweat started to taste sugary, although I did try (and fail) to curb my addiction.

I’ve a craving for a chai right now, it’s warm, sweet, milky goodness. It’s perfect for this current London weather – cold and rainy – and for my current mood – tired and in need of a pick-me-up. I have chai whenever I can be bothered to make it at home, and although it never tastes as good as what I had in India, it makes me feel comforted.

Chai brings back joyful memories. It reminds me of being welcomed after 24 hours of travelling by my guesthouse, of overlooking sand dunes and camels in the Thar desert, of mornings in Udaipur eating breakfast on the rooftop, of people-watching at the local market, of being shown gifts and souvenirs to bring people at home whilst I sat amongst swathes of material and hordes of accessories, chai thrusted to me to turn my hand and encourage me to spend more (which I often did).

Chai tastes good.

And even when it doesn’t, e.g. if it’s too watery or too spicy for my taste buds, there’s still something inherently reassuring about it, even if I did get mildly annoyed when I had a bad cup.

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