Sunday, February 21, 2010

The best cup of chai in the world

In a previous post I talked about pomegranate juice. Today I am going to tell you about the best cup of chai tea in the world.

I arrived in India on the red eye from London in the middle of August. In London I was upgraded to business class after charming a grumpy ticket agent and giving her a gift of Canadian maple syrup. So I had slept - a little.

I worked my way out of the airport and found my driver holding up a card with my name 'keembirli'. I followed him to a run down and dirty car, got in and hoped for the best in spite of the lack of seatbelt.

The chaos, heat, smell of the road from Jaipur to India overwhelmed my senses. It is hard to imagine anything more opposite to the Canadian countryside where I live. My driver didn't speak English so I was alone with my thoughts and became an observer in a distant land, watching everything.

Three hours into the drive we pulled over at a gas station with a flat tire. While the driver put on the spare I watched the group of people surrounding an overturned car assessing the damage of a very recent and serious accident. Naivety now dissolving I started to worry for my safety and remembered that the seat belt in the car was in fact broken.

Fifteen minutes further down the road we pulled over again. Now in what appeared to be a junk yard, I had no choice but to change my clothes and relieve myself behind a billboard. When I reappeared it was obvious we were at an Indian tire store.
There were several men walking around and kicking the tire very much like they do in Canada and probably the rest of the world. I found a patch of grass and sat down. I was alone, tired, hungry on the side of the road in the middle of Rajasthan, no telephone, no one to call, my only company some wild dogs, a cow and eight Indian men changing a tire. There wasn't a motel 6 in sight.

In time a very old man in tattered clothes and bare feet appeared. He was approaching me with something in his hands. As he got closer I recognized a china cup and a plate with cookies. 'Namaste' I said for the very first time. He looked down at the ground and passed me his gift of chai tea and a snack. I didn't know what to do so I looked to see what the others were doing. Everyone was sitting down and drinking their chai.

The hot sweet taste of the chai on that dry patch of grass filled me with comfort and faith in the people I was with. These people were good people, I wasn't alone. They would make sure I got to Jaipur by nightfall. When I finished the very best cup of chai in the world I joined the small group as they finished putting the patched up tire on the car and we continued our journey.

This wasn't a junkyard at all, it was India's version of Canadian Tire and Tim Horton's and I'd like to go back there again.
Thank you for spending time here.

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