Monday, March 16, 2015

Eleven Golden Rules for making perfect Cup of Tea ~ George Orwell

If you look up 'tea' in the first cookery book that comes to hand you will probably find that it is unmentioned; or at most you will find a few lines of sketchy instructions which give no ruling on several of the most important points.
This is curious, not only because tea is one of the main stays of civilization in this country, as well as in Eire, Australia and New Zealand, but because the best manner of making it is the subject of violent disputes.
When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:

  • First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase 'a nice cup of tea' invariably means Indian tea.
  • Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britanniaware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.
  • Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.
  • Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.
  • Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.
  • Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.
  • Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.
  • Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one's tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.
  • Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.
  • Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.
  • Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tealover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.

    Some people would answer that they don't like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.
These are not the only controversial points to arise in connexion with tea drinking, but they are sufficient to show how subtilized the whole business has become. There is also the mysterious social etiquette surrounding the teapot (why is it considered vulgar to drink out of your saucer, for instance?) and much might be written about the subsidiary uses of tealeaves, such as telling fortunes, predicting the arrival of visitors, feeding rabbits, healing burns and sweeping the carpet. It is worth paying attention to such details as warming the pot and using water that is really boiling, so as to make quite sure of wringing out of one's ration the twenty good, strong cups of that two ounces, properly handled, ought to represent.

(taken from The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, Volume 3, 1943-45, Penguin ISBN, 0-14-00-3153-7)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Two Cup Tea- First thing after retirement

‘I made tea, had a lovely breakfast with my wife’ Sachin Tendulkar

Mumbai: “I woke up at 6.50am. I generally get up according to my body clock. But then I realized that I don’t need to take an early shower. So I made some tea for myself and had a lovely breakfast with my wife.” That was Sachin Tendulkar’s first morning as a retired cricketer, something, he says, that hasn’t sunk in yet.

On Sunday, addressing his first press conference after retirement, Sachin dedicated his Bharat Ratna to his mother, and, all mothers in India. “Yesterday I said this award is for my mother, because of all the sacrifices she made for me. As a child, you don’t understand life… when you grow up, you realise all these things,” he said.

“It is not just for my mother. There are millions and millions of mothers in India who sacrifice many things for their children. I would like to share my award with them,” said the 40-year-old.

When he was a budding cricketer, Sachin’s family had moved him to his aunt’s place near Shivaji Park to cut down on travel time and focus more on playing cricket at Ramakant Achrekar’s clinic. For those four years, Sachin’s mother Rajni, who was employed with LIC, would brave the cumbersome Mumbai traffic every day to travel from her workplace at Santacruz to Shivaji Park to meet Sachin before heading back to Bandra.

Ahead of his final Test, Tendulkar had personally inspected the arrangements for his wheelchair-bound mother to watch the Test.

“My mother has never seen me play a single ball. So when I decided to retire, I had requested BCCI to let the match happen in Mumbai. I was also not sure that whether she would be able to come. I had requested MCA to keep a room in the Garware guest house next door, but my mother preferred staying in the box and watched every ball. When I went up to her, I could see her speak more with her eyes,” Tendulkar said.

The number of runs he scored never mattered to his parents, he said. “The beauty about my family was they never lost balance. They encouraged me a lot. Like any other normal family, whenever I did well, all they did was offer a packet of sweets to thank the Almighty.”

About the future, the 40-year-old said he would want to be associated with cricket. “ oxygen to me. Of the 40 years, at least 30 years have been spent playing cricket. So, there will be some association with the game, maybe not in the immediate future. It’s only 24 hours since I’ve retired after playing for 24 years. I need a break for at least 24 days,” he said.

In an interview to Times Now, he said he wouldn’t have to look at the match calendar to have cheesecake. “I can do it everyday now.”

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Rehman Sir talking about tea in Jaipur...literally

I’m writing a script, but direction is not my cup of tea: Rahman

 AR Rahman also talks about the loneliness of being in LA, and his Rajasthan connect Richa Shukla He may have won Grammies, Oscars and acclaim all over, but it is his passion that keeps AR Rahman going. The music maestro performed in Jaipur and opened up to JT about his music, his faith and his family. Your long association and frequent visits to the Ajmer Dargah vouch for your love with the state.

What’s so special about Rajasthan? Rajasthan is known for its love affair with music and art. The state has given renowned artistes to the country. I still remember my first visit to Jaipur some 20 years ago.I feel emotionally connected with Ajmer.The place gives me spiritual comfort. This is where I meet my Guruji. As and when it is possible to come to Ajmer, I don’t miss a chance. Rajasthan is known for its distinctive style of folk music. You have hardly ever incorporated few elements of it, except in Meenaxi: A Tale Of Three Cities.

Does the music here fascinate you?
Potency in the delivery of the tunes, and the rendition of Rajasthani artistes is the most fascinating thing. You will find so many Rajasthani artistes, not just folk, but even classical ones too, performing all over the world. I have met so many ghazal singers. Whenever I meet good artistes and ask them where are they from, their reply is either Rajasthan or UP.In the recent past,I have seen so many Rajasthani artistes perform.I am amazed to see the amount of talent they have.

You and Rajinikanth are back together once again for the animated film Kochadaiiyaan. What was in your mind while creating music for the film?
This one is a special film for all of us.His persona, the era that the film is based upon,and also the treatment given to the film is completely different. Since I have worked with him earlier, I wanted a special treatment to be given to the film. I took this project as a challenge and wanted a new dimension to be added. I hope people will like it. You are taking lessons in script-writing.

Are you also planning to get into direction?
For concerts and recordings I have been travelling a lot of late. While travelling, I have observed many things. So, as and when I get time, I love to scribble down my thoughts. Considering my writing skills, one of my friends, Gabriel, suggested that I take it up seriously. He gave me lessons in writing. That’s how I was bitten by the writing bug. Very few people know that it’s been almost three years since I have been writing.Currently I am working on a Hindi script which will be produced by Eros.My role will not be limited to just the script, I’ll be producing and composing music for the film as well. But as far as direction is concerned, it’s not my cup of tea.
Any Indian singer you regret that you couldn’t work with?
India has given numerous legendary musicians and singers who have built roads for us to walk on. There were many stalwarts that Indian music industry gave to the world, who are no longer with us. But their art will always remain with us. No matter that I could not work with them but I still have the opportunity to listen to them. Personally speaking, I am a big fan of Rafi saab.

After Oscars, Grammies, name and fame, how do you look upon your journey so far?
It’s almost 25 years since I started. I never intended to become a Bollywood musician. Initially, I used to create music for my own sake. Gradually, moved by appreciation,encouragement and love of the people, I just got into it. Name, fame and awards are all momentary things. Passion for music is what keeps me going.

How do you manage your time between India and LA?
At times it is difficult to work in two different worlds altogether.Since both Bollywood and Hollywood have different set of rules, even musical sensibilities are different,it becomes a little difficult.But, with due course of time, one can adapt to the different environment.What pinches me is the loneliness.That
really haunts me when I am away from my family.Like any other human being,I too feel stressed when my wife and children are not around for long. Managing time is not difficult, but managing life away from your loved ones, who are pillars of strength in your life is surely not easy.

Do you miss out on things because of this shuffle?
It’s a debatable question.I would only say that many things in life are defined by opportunity. And what is more important is that how much of an effort you put in to make best of the opportunity. Then only one can be happy and satisfied.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sometimes chai and samosa with a stranger is all takes to make a street safer

Taking back the city

The Mumbai mill rape has only hammered home the need for making public spaces safer for women. But instead of waiting for the government or civic authorities to do something, a few determined citizens are making it happen --Sruthy Susan Ullas | TNN

There used to be a vegetable cart at 4pm and an ice cream vendor by 5pm. The only other movement on the road was when cars stopped and men got out to empty their bladders. The empty buses, used by a factory to drop female employees after dark, were stationed by the pavement, adding to the eeriness. The lane in Yelehanka New Town, a Bangalore suburb, soon won a tag — rapists’ lane. No one is sure if women were actually attacked on this road but the very thought of walking down the lane made women nervous. This, despite the fact that the road adjoined the boundary walls of the reputed Srishti School of Design and Technology.

But suddenly, one fine day in December last year, things changed. As the sun set early and a cool breeze began to blow, a few tables began to appear along the kerb. To be precise, five tables — round as well as square — with a pair of chairs on each side, and with chai and samosa sitting invitingly on it. Volunteers sat at the tables and called out to complete strangers for a chat. When the chat ended, sometimes after an hour, the volunteer would offer a flower to her partner. The only rule was that there would be no talk of sexual harassment. Around 17 volunteers took part, each of them taking turns at the table, from 3pm to 8pm.

The initiative to reclaim public space was taken by Bangalore based NGO Blank Noise soon after the Nirbhaya gang rape case. There was no agenda. The subjects varied — from life, love, and friends to hobby and career. Inhibitions, language barriers, class differences, gender biases, all faded as the conversation warmed up. And the Yelehanka Action Heroes, as they were called, will vouch that they had made a friend on a road that city women dreaded. The rapists’ lane was to be renamed the safest lane. “Talking to a stranger was something that I had never done. The exercise made me more confident. The guy I spoke to happened to mention that he used to stalk girls in this lane, follow them on bikes and even drink there. I was glad he was honest with me. But he said he had no intentions of intimidating or harassing anyone. He was dying for a girl friend. I made him realize that his way of approaching women would not work. He expressed a genuine interest in changing and it made me feel good about myself. I also realize that all such people are not harmful,” says Anamika Dev, a volunteer.

The students of Shrishti School of Design and Technology even put up huge paintings of women sitting relaxed on the walls along the road. They mapped corners that were perceived as safe and perceived as unsafe. Jasmeen Patheja, founder, Blank Noise, says the exercise helped participants overcome their fears. “There’s unsafe and there’s a perception of unsafe. Often the unknown is feared, thus makes it unsafe. In this case strangers who were further distanced by socio-economic factors were brought together over a cup of tea. Being defensive, hyper alert to ‘making safe’ doesn’t lead to actually ‘feeling safe’. We tend to make ourselves feel safe by building up a defence. We need to make ourselves safe by ‘making familiar’ instead. It requires a purposeful unclenching of the fist. Fear creates fear. Defence creates defence. We need to build safe cities with empathy,” says Patheja. After the overwhelming response, Blank Noise plans to replicate the exercise in other cities.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tea, City and Free Birds

The long boring afternoon hours in office were making her fidgety. Tik tik tik….12:20 pm was the time by her watch. Alas, only 3 minutes had passed since the last time she had checked. Even the hands of her watch seemed exhausted by the hot, heavy May afternoon; causing them to run slower by the second.
The best way to beat hot afternoons is by having an equally hot cup of tea; and she being a teaholic needed no more provocation.

“Enough is enough !!!” she got up from her desk, brushed her dress and brushed off her inhibitions of going out alone on the blazing streets to have tea. As the afternoon air welcomed her outside, she smiled and inhaled the street smells. The day’s work was on and the bazaar was bustling. Noisy shopkeepers were loading and unloading goods. Rickshaw pullers were scaling the streets to beat each other in the race of livelihood. College students were animatedly talking in small groups. The pleasure of bunking classes was evident on a few faces. She spotted a couple holding hands under a mango tree. She took in all this and smiled. She was a part of all this yet she felt alone...

She spotted a chaiwallah under the Neem tree. With purposeful strides, she reached the stall and asked “ Bhaiya ek chai dena!”

Chai wallah was surprised to listen to a female voice but quickly recovering, he obliged, filling in a cup of steaming hot tea. She inhaled the heady aroma and took a small sip. “Ummm, badhiya chai!”
She resumed her inspection of the street in front of her. There was a bus stop beside the tea stall, near which, she saw an old woman sitting on the footpath under the shade of an old umbrella, selling pigeon feed.
People in Jaipur love pigeons and it is not uncommon to spot numerous mini Trafalgar squares, where people come and feed these peace birds. She immediately took out her phone and clicked a few pictures of the woman with pigeons. Upon hearing the clicks, the old woman turned and gave her a smile.

She smiled back and asked, “Amma, photo le sakti hu?” The old woman graciously obliged and posed for her. After getting the shot to her liking, she signaled the chai wallah for two more cups of tea and settled down on a nearby bench. After quietly sipping tea for some time, they both looked at each other and smiled. “Since when are you coming here amma?” she asked in Hindi.

“Before you were even born beta.” replied the wizened old lady. The tea warmed the old woman’s memories and out came the lore of bygone days. Her mesmerizing stories ranged from the tales of royalty to that of wars, of changing political scenes and of lives lost in bomb blasts.

In the course of conversation, she realized that the old woman who sold pigeon feed for living was a cripple and had no legs. She had lost her husband in her youth and her only son was off to Delhi for employment.
“Don’t you feel alone amma?”She asked. The old woman looked fondly at the pigeons and replied, “These birds are my family.” She was moved by the sheer zest of the old woman to live.

With a hoard of worldly advice and a promise to meet again, she said goodbye to the old woman and with a spring in her step, walked back to office.

Her spirit soared high in the hot afternoon breeze.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Two Cup Tea- On a rainy evening

After a long day of deliberation, scattered clouds finally agreed to coalesce and condense into rainfall. Rains have a strange effect on the city and its dwellers. As the city is purged off its pollution and the milieu settles into an easy pace; its dwellers disoriented with the freshness, turn introspective and moody.
A cup of tea becomes imperative in such weather to break these spells of self-reflection.
“What is your earliest memory of rain?” She enquired while putting the tea cups on the table.
He was looking out of the window and thinking of words that could describe the sound of rainfall.
 “Come on... stop being so reclusive.” She spoke and passed the cup of tea to him.
He nestled the warm cup in his hand and tried to breathe in the aroma of cardamom and the scent of earth simultaneously.
"Every morning I used to wait for my school bus at the end of the colony road. I usually came a good 15-20 minutes before the bus was scheduled to come, and waited reluctantly with my school bag on my shoulder. Standing there, I always hoped that the bus would break down or the driver would fall ill and I wouldn’t have to go to school.”
Both of them sipped some tea at the same time. He continued-
“On one such morning, as I waited for the wretched bus a white feather came floating in the air and got stuck in my hair. I took it out and kept it in my pocket. I sensed that the morning breeze was slightly cooler, birds were not chirping with morning madness and everything was quiet as if waiting for something to happen. I looked around to see if anything else was different; the dairy booth was still not open, not one stray dog was in sight and no morning-walkers greeted each other. Everything seemed strange and then suddenly big drops of water poured from the sky and I was drenched even before I could rush back home.”
“And, you didn’t have to go to school.” She exclaimed.
“Yes, I didn’t go to school that day on the pretext of getting soaked, but the bus did come at the scheduled time and the driver did not fall ill. This is my earliest memory of rainfall and it still fills me with a sense of tragic optimism.” He concluded.
She smiled and sipped her tea. How much she enjoyed his half-made stories with rusks and tea.