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Sunday, 1 November 2015

Get Your Chai On!

Society Insider Magazine's November 1, 2015 edition
Have you ever wondered why Facebook does weird and magical things to people? Some suddenly become the persona far removed from their actual selves. It exaggerates and alters behaviour. Smart people write silly things. Airy people write heady stuff. Quiet people abuse awkwardly. Of course, hot red, raving people still rave. Sometimes it is weird how generous people are with appreciation. Have you stumbled upon some praises that are absolutely cringeworthy? It's a doting crowd out there. Why do we turn to our phones every now and then? Why do we scroll or look for people or follow what they do? Why has social validation become a trend?

While we think about that let us take short break. Let us make some chai! I invite you to blukitchen - my own kitchen cum play area of experiments and dreamy escapades. ‬For the first time Gujarati-staple and my personal favourite ‪snack ‎dhokla‬ fluffed up while the morning ‪‎tea‬ was made to stretch and fall into the cup like a waterfall in ‪‎Kerala‬. Have you tasted the elastic tea? This one is popular by that name. I am not very skilled in this act of jugglery that involves hot tea being thrown from the pan to the cups. This almost-martial-arts-sort of-act of stretching arms, aiming and throwing the hot tea from a cup and catching it with the other was a spectacle for me the first time I saw this at a roadside tea stall in Kerala. Recently an experienced elder demonstrated this to me in my own kitchen! And am learning this new skill that calls for aim and efficiency. The net result is an aerated tea. Refreshingly different from the usual flat one it has a soft and fluffy froth floating peeping above the rim of the cup. One has to softly blow through this mountain of foam to get the tea to the lips. If lucky you get a tea-moustache too! Simply fantastic!

There is no one right way to make a tea. By the way 'chai tea' is an oxymoron. I have no idea why they call it so in menu cards. I like the Delhi-style masala chai much stretched and dropped from high above to fall into my mug like Kerala's elastic tea. There are so many delightful options to make a break mindful that all you need is get a little nostalgic or think about how best you like your cuppa and get from there. Just like there is no certain 'right way' to make a tea there is no one solution for that which distracts you. We are free humans. Your life is nobody else's business. First of all it is not a business! Like a delightful chai can be a priceless experience. 

The day offers many chores between chais. Some chores you don't like usually are the ones that will drive in boredom. That boredom can be broken by scrolling the screen of your touch phone. This activity has the potential to open cringe gates so wide open that a certain thought creeps in and stays with you and feeds on your positivity like a parasite... for days, or months together. Make the simple chai break mindfully so. Chai has the potential to be a spectacular drink and give you a phenomenal experience. 

Sharing my chai recipe here. The aromatic chai's masala mix is not just a heady mix of spices that has an awesome aroma, they are full of well being. Do try making the masala at home, t is aroma therapy in itself. Dry roast few pods of cardamom (mood enhancer), cloves (antioxidant), fennel seeds (digestive), peppercorns (anti-inflamatory) and pound them in a mortar along with some grated dry ginger (antiseptic). Add a teaspoon of this mix to boiling tea leaves. Strain to add little milk and sugar... do the elastic-tea gig. Savour the exotic whiff and take a sip while enjoying the taste of a revitalised drink, the warmth of the cup that you hold and the beautiful day light that dances in as shadows into the room. Aah! More sips! Aha! This exercise transports me to the mountains that grow this magical brew. I can almost hear a bagpiper in the backdrop and instantly feel I am floating amongst the clouds that stoop down to kiss the tender tea leaves. I can keep the chai time on for as long as the brew lasts. Every sip is a ticket free trip to some exotic dreamscape! Why not?

Once the chai time is over, reality strikes back. As far as possible I keep away from opportunities to cringe and away from social networks not because am an introvert. I do this only so that I can behave my best without any network inflicted baggage when I meet a new face or an old friend. There are so many interactions in a day that demand more attention than those virtual ones. We are a net result of all people and activities we choose to keep in our day. 

So why is this a trend - looking for validation online? Is it lack of creativity and thus resultant boredom? I have observed that it is not that people are not creative. Most are perhaps not creating anything of actual value. However, everyone needs some sort of self assurance of their social value and hence they seek it through virtual social opinion. This most often results in increased stress, anxiety and nothing remotely phenomenal. But there is a solution.

Einstein believed in something called Combinatory Play. The idea is simple. By expressing creativity in one realm, you could get inspiration for another. So whenever he was blocked, he would spend some time playing his violin. This activity opened up some channels in his mind, and he could go back and solve that tough mathematical equation easier this time. Whatever it takes to get the inspiration flowing, get it flowing. Get on it right now! For starters, switch off that damn phone and simply get your chai on! Make that chai with some profound TLC. And sit down to enjoy the best cuppa made exclusively for you. Make the moment count.

Thank you for being the change! Happy Chai!

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