It was towards the end of fall, when copper corpses of leaves lined most roads, that I bought the first packet of tea for myself. I was in London, doing my Masters, and for the first time beginning to understand what ‘biting cold’ really meant. I needed something to warm me up and remind me of home. Since cooking was out of question back then, I turned to the next best thing- Chai. Tea.
If I remember right, the first packet I bought was a Twinning’s Earl Grey. Every morning after my prayers, eyes still heavy with unfinished sleep, I would switch on the kettle and make myself a cup of tea. I didn’t like the taste of black tea initially; it was nothing like the milky tea I was used to drinking back home. But with time, I found myself enjoying the drink. Not just the taste, but the feel of the hot cup on my cold hands as I tried to warm myself up, and the very distinct, soothing smell. For a few minutes, before I dove headfirst into the days work, I was happy. And then the day would begin and I would trudge through it, trying to make it till the end without losing a bit of myself.
It’s hard to explain to others, because it seems glamorous, the life in London. It was, after all, a city bursting with life, bustling with people from all corners of the world. But as much as I tried to settle in I found the place unsettled me more. It wasn’t just the external coldness; it was an internal one that slowly crept its way into my mind, chilling me to the bone. There were so many people, filling cafes and public squares and park benches, but I had never felt so alone before. I wanted to be ‘Out There’ enjoying all that the city had to offer. But on most days I couldn’t. Instead I would sit in my room sipping tea and pining to go back home. I lived 100 mts from the Thames and the Trafalgar Square, but I wished instead that I were at home having dinner with my family in my uneventful city.
So tea was what got me through that year when getting out of bed was a chore. I found myself drinking more and more of it. By the end of the first semester at uni. my shelf was lined with more than half a dozen flavors of tea, from Masala tea (my favourite) to peppermint to lemon to green tea. Looking back it’s funny, it’s like I was trying to drink away my troubles. (Well, the Muslim version of it, with a hot beverage instead of alcohol ;)) I was quite proud of my collection and the fact that if anyone visited me, I could ‘properly’ entertain them with my glorious tea collection.
I eventually moved back but what I took from London is my addiction to tea. It became a crutch on days I couldn't carry myself. These days I find myself drinking a lot of cardamom tea. I find it relaxing, the whole process. I don’t think of anything when I crush the cardamom in my small green mortar. I focus just on making the tea, waiting for the first bubbles to line the stainless steel pot, measuring in the aromatic tea leaves and crushed cardamom, watching the foam reach for the air and switching it off just before the foam escapes. Those ten minutes, from pouring the milk in to taking the last sip, that’s the time I just know everything is okay, and even if it isn’t, it will be. Some day.
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