Chai and I

Text and photo by Mehmudah Rehman

Hi All! I can sense a serious and perfectly ‘non-bloggable’ rant brewing inside. In the meanwhile here’s a harmless little piece published today in Dawn Images (The Review) in Pakistan. Talks about my (in)famous addiction to chai (tea). Enjoy it over a cuppa if you like!


The pleasing aroma of simmering tea wafts from the kitchen, and I instantly imagine a satisfying mug of the beverage in front of me. I particularly enjoy it with the flavour of cardamom infused into the liquid, with just the right combination of milk, water and tea. My day begins with a large mug of the said stuff, and only after consuming it can I function normally. If for some reason the morning tea is not strong enough, contains too much milk or too much water or, God forbid, isn’t available at all, I turn into a complaining grouch, claiming that I am down with a migraine, much to the family’s chagrin.

My love affair with tea is truly a strange one. When we were children, the elders drank tea, and we were given glasses of milk with Ovaltine mixed in it. When I asked for tea, I was told “Children don’t drink tea” and when I further pressed for a cup, I was told that it could darken one’s complexion. When I insisted that Mom’s skin looked perfectly fine and rosy, I was told that it had that undesirable effect only on children’s skin! The explanation, of course, is a preposterous one — because we now know that tea contains anti-oxidants and is actually quite good for health.

Childhood passed with the occasional sip of tea, which became rather like a ‘forbidden pleasure’. As I grew older, I was allowed to consume tea more frequently than before, especially when the family had a grand breakfast together every Sunday. Dad would whip up his famous omelettes and Mom would prepare soft as butter chapattis, and we’d be given a cup of tea if we cared to have it. I was, however, afraid that I would get addicted to it and deep down I also wondered if tea could really darken one’s skin tone. So I had it every alternate Sunday, and was completely happy with my schedule, until of course, I got engaged.

When my future mother-in-law enquired if I drank tea, I responded with a casual “Oh, just every alternate Sunday.” This innocently uttered response became the fodder for some real amusement to the family and my mother-in-law-to-be could hardly keep from chuckling. It was only after marriage that I was told how amused the family had been. Why on earth would a normal person have tea only on ‘alternate Sundays’? I am, to this day, the butt of a few jokes on the topic, especially because I now consume tea with far more frequency than I did then.

When my first child was born, crying and gurgling and kicking, the responsibility was pleasurable yet overwhelming — more so because the little one was a colicky baby, and no medicine would soothe her. The only thing that helped was walking across the room whilst holding her tight when she cried — loudly and pitifully — at night. My sleeping habits became irregular, to say the least, and the person who thrived on eight hours of glorious, uninterrupted shut-eye now had to make do with two or three. The only way I could function through the days which contained a never-ending cycle of feeding the baby, putting her to sleep, bathing her and changing her diapers, was to empower myself with a morning shot of caffeine.

One child followed another and gradually, the children began to grow up, and easily the most relaxing development was when they began sleeping the entire night. With the black circles fast vanishing from underneath my eyes, I wondered if the morning tea would go too. What I didn’t realise was that tea had become a habit, one of life’s little pleasures and I had begun to derive an unexpected soothing satisfaction from it. I could think intensely over a cup of tea, break down insurmountable problems in my mind, enjoy reading a book over it, or even write whilst sipping it. It was as though I could retreat into my own world with a cup of tea, and emerge feeling refreshed, energised and uplifted.

I drink tea mostly once a day and sometimes in the evenings, always without sugar, which I suppose can only be a good thing, because it significantly reduces the calorie-intake of the beverage. And in case you were wondering, the tea did not make my skin darker. It most certainly doesn’t look as fresh as before, and unwanted creases are beginning to appear — but that’s Mother Nature’s handiwork as age is catching up with me. I’d say that thought deserves a cuppa!


29 thoughts on “Chai and I

  1. Wow!! now only YOU could write an entire post about ‘tea’ and yet keep it so entertaining.. 😀
    And parents tell me EVEN now..that tea/coffee would darken my that a desi thing? lol..
    Im more addicted to coffee but that pic on top really got me craving..yummm..
    btw..have u tried Irani chai..its really famous in Hyd! 😀 Maybe you should, one day, insha’Allah! 🙂

    P.S: Was reading this post and having my daily bowl of Chocos with milk because….. well, tea ‘darkens’ lol 😀

    • Haha Nasmira thank you! I think it’s definitely a desi thing lol. In any case Americans and Europeans etc have lots of coffee and they have no darkening of skin tone.

      Chocolate cereal with milk is also pretty satisfying though! Tc!

      • oh ! but I forgot to mention..Irani chai is sweet..coz they add sugar and all other *secret* ingredients in it and allow it to boil…like in the sense, they don’t add the ingredients separately one after another like normal tea..if you’re toooo calorie conscious, then its not for u 😛

  2. That’s a lovely post. It’s years since I had a really good cup of proper chai (in Pakistan) but I’m sitting here enjoying some British tea and toasting you and your alternate Sundays!

  3. Good day Mehmuda, wonderful post about tea.In the Middle- East the parents do the same.I drink more than 5 cups a day.Thank you for bringing back such memories, Maa Al salama. Jalal Michael Sabbagh

    • Walaikumassalam good day to you too! Thanks much appreciated! I think I would gladly have 5 cups a day but then I’d get too addicted to caffeine. Chai! Nothin quite like it!

      Welcome to the blog Jalal!

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