Search

Grab a cuppa, tell a story or listen to one.

Everyone loves stories. Everyone has a story to tell.

Month

November 2014

For The Love Of Cha


My ‘Cha’ or tea has come a long way with me. It has been my best buddy, sometimes warming my cold hands, sometimes my heart. It has been with me through my smiles and through my tears, through my low days and high, ever since I can remember, my days have always begun with my ‘cha’ and sometimes ended with it  too!

My ‘Cha’ memories go back to the “thermas-wala” chai served by Dad’s army regiment bhaiyas, as soon as we stepped out of the train, the journey began from there I guess!  From there to having the high-altitude ‘masala chai’ made by the sherpas after a tough trek through the blizzard at 17,000ft in the Himalayas, to Jadavpur University’s “lebu-cha” (lemon tea), the black tea served by the forest guards in the deepest jungles of Assam (because they don’t have regular milk supply there), to the Urban Tapri ka cutting “adraki chai” (ginger tea) in Mumbai.  

Chai has never failed to cheer me up, it has never let me down!! Many a conversation has begun over it, made many a friend over a cuppa of chai, have had so many debates while sharing “cha” from a ‘khodaiye’ / “kulhad” (an earthen cup) while in college. The most memorable chai, of course, was the steaming cup served by our very own Nepali bhaiya at the adventure camp, after we bobbed out from beneath the over-turned raft at Shivpuri , 6-sets of teeth clattering a concert – ”chai” was panacea that day!  

‘Cha’… is a new beginning,
 ‘Cha’… is sharing warmth,
‘Cha’… is being friends,
‘Cha’ …. is taking time off,
 ‘Cha’ … is trying to concentrate,
 ‘Cha’… is being romantic…
 ’Cha’ is having that cuppa with someone I Iove …
need I say more!!

Story and Picture Credit : Aporajita Jain 

Advertisements

Chai Connections

My first cuppa before the rest of the house clicks into life.
Enjoy the magic of Sukanya Bora’s writing and her chai connections. She needs no introduction. Get yourself a hot cuppa, curl up your feet on the couch and enjoy this nostalgic journey into the world of chai. You will find yourself in one of the many chai connections here. 

Lately a lot has been said about chai and its merits. Thanks to the ladies over at Chatoveracuppa who launched a thread on FB asking their readers to post photos of their cuppas. What started off as a tiny spark has now developed into an exquisite tapestry of pictures from all over the world. Beautiful photos of cuppas accompanied with equally beautiful captions.
Every time I see a new photo. I get excited. Every time I read the supplementary caption, my mind takes off on a tangent. It departs on a journey of nostalgia, packed with memories that I still hold dear. Of countless cuppas and the stories around them. Endearing, priceless memories to say the least.
Like the time while on a hike in picture perfect Mukteshwar, I stop and sit down with a local to share his tea and beedi. This simple, elderly man squatting on the edge of the narrow, mountain path, sipping tea out of a kulhad resembled nothing short of utopia for this out-of-shape-desperately-needing-a-break-faux-hiker girl. He notices me eying his tea hungrily and from no where pulls out a small kettle, smoke blowing out of its snout and another fresh kulhad. Soon we are bantering, he in his Kumaoni accented Hindi and I, in my broken, utterly useless and incomprehensible variation of the same language while sipping our chai and sharing a smoke intermittently. The morning mist dissipates, thick fog gives way to clear skies. Just across the valley, the majestic Himalayas stand dauntingly tall with glistening snow peaks, signaling the beginning of a sun kissed day.
Or the sound of the chaiwala on countless train journeys. Chai garama garam chai, is the refrain we will hear out for. The ‘garam’ almost sounding like an engine revving into life. We will board hastily, settle into our seats or bunks but remain restless until we hear his loud, enticing sing sung voice. It doesn’t matter that it is perhaps the most unhygienic concoction of tea leaves and milk. It doesn’t matter that he is the most unkempt man with long tangled hair, stained clothes and dirt filled nails. The second the hot, sweet and milky liquid kisses our lips, we are filled with a sense of calm, the kind one needs to endure long, tiring journeys to far flung places.
Or the many lazy Sunday afternoons of long naps and listening to favorite radio shows, the help ordered to make a potful of aromatic Assam chai for my folks and everyone else who happens to be there at that fateful hour. The chai is accompanied by trays of sweets and biscuits, the latter, we happily dunk so they melt into our mouths. Conversations flow as cups after cups of tea get polished until someone sensible reminds us that we have other important things to take care of.
Or when with dear friends, each of us waits until someone offers to become the designated chai maker. While we engage in endless chatter on topics both silly and significant, tea mugs get filled continuously, samosa, bhujia and milkcakes are devoured and we lose ourselves in fits of laughter and mindless repartee.
Needless to say, there are numerous anecdotes to be shared. This is the beauty of chai and or coffee. They are bonding agents, ego inhibitors, good times catalysts that bridge people together. Nudge them to bond, share and create connections that are to last for a lifetime.
Story and Photo Credit : Sukanya Bora  

Romance


A conversation over a cup of good coffee can be something most romantic. Often a cup of coffee can stay in your memory for years to come. I often remember the cups of coffee I had with my childhood sweetheart or those cold wintry mornings while someone would wait for me with a hot cup of coffee on the road or the one when I told my girlfriend to look forward to married life with me, that was how we decided to get married over a cup of coffee.

Picture and Story Courtesy : http://crunchmunchandslurp.wordpress.com/2012/02/19/romance/

The Cup Of Life

She opened the door for us, immaculately dressed in a crisp blue cotton sari, neatly pleated at her shoulder. Her silver gray hair tied as a bun at the nape of her neck. Her smile was warm and maternal.
She led us into a living room through a long narrow corridor. The house, an old Victorian house, was sparkling clean, organized and extremely quiet. In the living room, besides two large bookshelves and the cane furniture, there was a dark mahogany writing desk. A formal writing desk with pens, sheets of papers, more books and an ivory colored table lamp.  
After having made us comfortable in the living room, she proceeded to the kitchen to make tea. My mother offered to help. There was a girl for assistance too. But our hostess insisted she did not need help for making a pot of tea yet. “I am not that old, I make wonderful tea.” A little while later, she came out of the kitchen carrying a wooden tray with fine china cups and saucers, a handmade tea cozy over a teapot, shiny teaspoons and an array of cookies.
I sat there looking at her pouring the tea, gently dropping in the sugar cubes and adding a splash of cream to the fine china cups. She had a smile that never ceased and you could tell she loved her cuppa. As she stirred the sugar cubes in the cups, she offered me the cookies and asked, “Do you drink tea yet?”  I was only 12 at the time, still not quite in the “tea drinking” age. I politely said no, though the aroma from the Darjeeling tea that had filled the room was simply irresistible. Decades later I still have a  vivid memory of that aroma.
A memory of my mother’s aunt living by herself at the age of 83, so full of life, so positive and happy about everything around her, a memory of her affection in every single cuppa that she made that evening, her huge collection of books, her fondness for writing and her writing desk. She had seen my desire to sit at her desk and had let me sit there, allowing me to use her fountain ink pen and paper to scribble a little something while she enjoyed her tea and caught up with my mother.
Sitting at that desk, that little girl in me had dreamt that day that when I get old, I will have a home like this with a library of my own, have my tea, steeped just right in the finest china and have a writing desk where I would sit and write all day.
As we bid goodbye to her that day, the first and only time we had met, she had said to me “You like to write, I see. Always write for yourself. “ I understand that better today than I did that evening.  
 Story and Picture Credit : Piya Mukherjee 

Cha Chronicles

A Cup Of Tea / Chai or Cha as it is called in Bengali 
I  take the liberty of posting a series of pictures to do with Chai in it’s true lovable, comforting Indian avatar. These pictures are part of my trip to Calcutta and a few nearby towns. 

The lady brewing that ‘cha’ in a small village shop a few kilometers away from Shantiniketan is my favourite and definitely a moment to remember. This is a shop near a small village and when I am saying a small village in West Bengal(India), it’s actually small. As I was sitting and framing a few pictures, what I heard in the background was magical, something probably nowhere else in the world can you expect. 

It was the rickshawala reciting some serious poetry. The rickshawala who got me all the way from Shantiniketan to this village was sipping his LaalCha (Laal=Red, Cha=Tea) & humming some verses of Rabindranath Tagore’s poems. The amalgamation of The Music, the Santhal Lady, the Landscape & the aroma of freshly Brewed Tea being served in Bhaand (Kulhads – terracotta cups) took me to another era. Was it 1917? Not too sure, but definitely it wasn’t 2009.  

The rest of the pictures are from Seerampur, Calcutta, Shantiniketan, Chandanagar. All of them reflecting the West Bengals’ insuperable love for Cha and that’s what makes it an interesting series for me. ‪#‎chatoveracuppa‬




Pictures and Story By: Sudip Bhattacharya

Sudip is a cha and food lover, traveller, backpacker, storyteller, an avid blogger who tells his story in a few words and many brilliant pictures and a very dear friend. This among many other passions he has.The world through his lenses always appears more insightful and all that he captures actually comes to life. 

Tea Tales


Of the many challenges out there in the social media, we invented our own cuppa challenge. A picture of your favorite cuppa and a story along with it. That is all that is needed. Today our resider author Piya Mukherjee writes about her love for her cuppa. Come share your cuppa and a story about the cuppa with us. #chatoveracuppa 
My love for my cuppa is inherited. A few hours after giving birth to me, my mom had asked the nurse “Can I get a cup of tea please?”. Tea took precedence over any other drink or food or medicine that had been offered to her. And this had gotten the hospital staff worried. How do I know that? I saw this repeating after a major surgery that she had many years later. She refused ice chips, water or jello. All she wanted was a cup of tea. She nagged the staff for a cuppa for hours. And when she was offered one, she sat up on the hospital bed, all set to conquer the world. 
If I think of my mom, it is a picture that will be incomplete without a cup of tea next to her. If we both had our way, we would be living right in the middle of a tea garden, plucking leaves, steeping and drinking tea and conversing all day. Or maybe she would paint and I would write when we got tired of conversing. Well, that is only if wishes were horses. 
We begin and end our day with a cup of tea everyday, regardless of where we are. Not just my mother, I have managed to surround myself with people who love their cup of tea and conversation. Even the ones that were once ignorant of this bliss are now party to it. The hint is towards my husband. I can get him to talk more over a cup of tea than a bottle of wine.  And he is more particular than the royals about how his cup of tea is steeped. To the extent that it can annoy the tea lover in me.   
My partner in crime, Soumi, is overly fond of her tea just like me. You should have no doubt on why we named our blog “chatoveracuppa”. We have never chatted in real life without a cuppa. When we meet, we find ourselves asking each other several times over “Cha khabay ?”  (Will you have tea?) Bengalis genetically have a weakness for cha (tea) and adda (conversation). We cannot live without both. We make friends with people who love tea. We read about tea. We read food blogs where tea is of much importance. Now take for instance, Bong Mom’s blog, we love it. Her style of storytelling, as if she is conversing with us in person, the simplicity in her recipes and her love for tea. There are often times when she has mentioned tea in her post, that mere mention has prompted us to steep one quickly for ourselves before we read her entire post. It would be a crime otherwise to scroll and find a picture of a cup of tea in one of her beautifully hand painted cup. 
I could be in the middle of a desert and still crave for a cup of tea.  Yes, it is that bad (or good)! 
My friends are all (mostly) avid tea drinkers. Each one of them makes it their own way. Ginger tea,  black tea, black tea with sugar and a wee bit of cream, black tea with just cream, black tea with just sugar, black tea with nothing, darjeeling tea, assam tea, masala chai, earl gray, green tea, white tea, orange pekoe and a vanilla infused tea that someone at my work steeps often. Some drink it right off the pot, some drink it after it has turned stone cold, some will warm up the tea pot before pouring tea in it and some are particular about their china. It is absolute madness over just a cup of tea. So much fuss over a cup of tea you may say, but you have to love something as much to know why. 
And then, tea is heart healthy. I think more than the tea itself, the conversation that happens parallel to it, lightens up every artery in your heart.  Those blockages are not just caused by eating junk or lack of exercising. They are caused by keeping things to yourself and piling it within you. Instead, share it with someone over a cuppa. It will make you feel a whole lot better. 

Domestic Violence And The Workplace

The month is over but the issue is not, the purple ribbon campaign cannot be just forgotten after the month is over. If you have noticed, we are still talking a whole lot about domestic violence and bullying on our blog and FB page. Today’s post is about domestic violence and your workplace, an important insight into how you could possibly help a co-worker dealing with domestic violence. 

On a return visit to conduct an organization’s annual domestic violence prevention training, two male participants proudly told me the story of how they stepped up one day to talk with a fellow co-worker about their concerns for her safety.
For several months, the men noticed she sometimes wore her make-up very heavy. You know, heavy enough to hopefully cover bruises.  Armed with information learned in last year’s domestic violence prevention class, the men approached her with just the right amount of tact and with sincere concern; she trusted them and soon talked about her heavy make-up.  They took her to the first available resource person.  Her healing process had begun.
Of course we will never know how far the violence might have escalated in this co-worker’s home.  What we know is because her co-workers knew the signs of domestic violence, she was able to again be safe.
We also know that one in four women will be victims of domestic violence in her life time and if the violence continues, an abuser is likely to want power and control over a victim all times of the day and night– even while she is at work.  A recent survey said 21% of full time employees are victims of domestic violence.  Of that 21%, 74% said they have been harassed at work. 
Visualize this:  Picture a workforce of 50 employees.  Approximately 11 of the employees will experience domestic violence and 3 employees in that group will be harassed at work. 
With these staggering numbers, every employee who understands domestic violence and knows signs of domestic abuse specific to the workplace may be able to help a co-worker or even save a life.  So, here are some of the signs:
Signs that an employee or co-worker may be experiencing domestic violence:
Wears long sleeves when it is hot, sunglasses inside and heavy make-up
Has unexplained injuries or gives non-believable reasons for injuries
Is easily startled
Arrives early or late to work
Appears fatigued much of the time
Shows fear, anxiety or depression
Decrease in productivity
Receives frequent personal phone calls, text messages or emails
Frequently borrows money for lunch
Poor self-concept
Makes excuses for not participating in after work events with co-workers
Signs that an employee or co-worker may be a domestic violence abuser:
Makes statements that show extreme jealously of partner
Doesn’t cope well with stress; constantly complains
May talk about being rough with partner
Has poor self-image
Consistently blames others; it’s never their responsibility
Makes frequent personal phone calls, text messages or emails
History of unemployment
Speaks about being cruel to animals
Alcohol and/or drug abuse
One of these signs may not be an indicator, but multiple signs are a stronger indicator of abuse.  Each situation is different, but all situations should be approached carefully.  An excellent resource for questions and concerns about domestic violence is the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-7233.
Written by : Toni Bowie 

Toni Bowie, the founder of MaxLife, LLC, trains and coaches company leaders and employees to prevent and manage domestic violence and sexual harassment and to embrace diversity and inclusion.  Contact Toni at toni@MaxLifeLLC.com

Sugarcane Juice and WWF

Bullying has existed in schools for many years now. It is now much talked about. Swapna Haldar shares an anecdote from many years back about bullying in the school she taught at. It tells that bullying is not always a behavioral issue. It is influenced by external factors, sometimes as simple as a TV show or a movie. Children see, children ape. As parents, as teachers sometimes very simple check and balance methods can curb it. 

It was sometime in the 1990’s, one morning a fellow teacher anxiously told me, “Take care of your boys(in the classroom). While returning home, they stop by a roadside vendor, have sugarcane juice and encourage younger boys to fight.They make a lot of noise and disturb the residents.” 

A roadside sugarcane vendor in India. These makeshift fresh juice stalls are
extremely popular. 
I heard her out, but did not give much thought to the matter as many of the teachers thought the tenth grade students that I taught were the trouble makers and the class teacher is answerable to whatever they do, whether in the school or outside. Two days later I got the same complain from another teacher and she also added, “The boys bully the younger students and force them to engage in fighting”. She gave me the name of the supposed leader also. I asked her why  she had not stopped them. Her reply was the same – the elder boys don’t listen to the junior teachers (teachers from elementary or middle school grades). 

When I heard three complaints, I asked one of the girls about it. She said it is a mock fight like WWF(World Wresting Federation) on T.V. I had no idea about that program, so that night I watched it. 

Next day I finished teaching the class a little early, started talking about TV shows, how many hours the students watched TV, what were the most popular programs . Most of the girls said they watched music channels or TV series / serials and the boys watched sports only. Then they asked me what channels I watch. I told them, as they knew I didn’t have much time left after the school and after correcting all their work, my preference was for Discovery and News channels. But the previous night while surfing, I saw a strange channel named WWF, but obviously I could not make head or tail of it (my purpose was served, I wanted to raise the topic without their knowledge). 

Many of them said it is a mock  fight and few boys watch them and quite liked it, but all this while the supposed leader among them, J, – kept silent. Finally I asked,  ‘J- don’t you watch it?’ He looked at me, could read something in my eyes, jumped to his feet holding his ears with his hands (Indian style) and said, “Sorry M’am”. “Are you sure it will never be repeated?”, I asked. He promised and the chapter was closed . The sugarcane vendor was also not seen there anymore.

Celebrating Everything Different

Hope everyone had a fun and spooky Halloween. I understand Halloween is now celebrated in more countries than it was five years ago. It’s a global world, our celebrations have to get global too. Why not ? 
It’s my favorite time of the year. I am always hungry for celebrations and my kids have taken upon me. My idea of celebration may not be partying necessarily. But it does revolve around having little rituals of our own for every occasion. Rituals that are mostly self-made and have taken birth in our home, sometimes due to circumstances. 
Up until two years back our Halloween ritual used to be a little different than what it is today. We would dress up in characters of our choice, decorate our home and load up on candies as everybody does. And then something changed around last Halloween.  We were introduced to the hundreds of children who probably take the Reese’s and Snicker’s from our home and never ever get to touch them and give them over to a friend or a sibling because they cannot eat it themselves. Or worse many do not even venture our for trick or treating at all. 
It is difficult to understand a situation unless you are hit by it yourself. In our case, my son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies. For the first time in my life, I understood clearly how life altering and life threatening it could be. It is not a tantrum that a parent with an allergic child makes. It is serious, I experienced it first hand. 
That set the new Halloween ritual at our home. Getting non-edible treats for the trick-o-treaters. The very first year, my daughter was very hesitant but understanding at the same time. “What if no came to our house ? What if no one liked any of these treats ? They want candies. We had stickers, glow lights, pencils, sharpies, crayons, yo-yo’s and necklaces instead.”, she had said.  She did not want to be different than the rest. As the first few set of kids came in, their reaction upon seeing the treats was “Wow, This is so cool.” We let them pick what they want. Very soon, I saw my daughter inviting over kids to our home. She was no longer hesitant. To many of her friends, she explained why we were doing so. 
The treats – The only candy you notice are free of most allergens. 
This time along, it was an established ritual. We had a blast shopping for Halloween treats and the children who came over were thrilled too. “Can I take another shiny sticker please? “ “Do these Yo-Yo’s light up ?” “I am Elsa, can you give me a blue necklace please.” “Who needs candies ? Glow sticks are more fun.” That’s what we heard through out the evening and the treats were all gone as we wrapped up that night. 
This whole experience has taught me one thing. People are more receptive of accepting something different than we think they are. We keep things concealed in fear of opinions or judgments. But the truth is that if we are candid about what is different in our homes, in our lives and if we find ways to celebrate them, people are most likely going to embrace our celebrations too. So celebrate everything that is different. Life is a like a rainbow, it would not appeal without all its colors. 
Pictures and Story By : Piya Mukherjee 

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑