Tag Archives: chai

6 Indian Habits That Travel With Me

When it comes to leaving India – there is a storm of mixed emotions. I want to fill up my pockets with all the beauty that exists here and leave behind the few things I hate. Global Indians and NRIs understand the duality of leaving a place like India. Having lived in India my whole life, there are a few things I’m unwilling to give up. Digging deeper on what influences my life, here are six habits acquired from Indian culture that stick with me, regardless of where I go. 

CHAI – THE MIGHTY CUP OF TEA!

 ‘Chai’ should be declared as the national drink of India. The joy of drinking the carefully brewed tea with milk in clay cups is beyond this world. With a dash of spices like ginger, cardamom, holy basil, pepper, and cloves – it’s not just healthy, but mystifying. There is nothing as soothing to the senses and calming to the mind as a hot cup of tea in the morning. It rejuvenates!

World food chains like Starbucks and Teavana have gloriously adapted to the Tea Culture and now serve Indian Style tea labeled as ‘Chai Tea’ around the world. Being an Indian knowing the drill of making a mighty cup of tea it’s difficult to love the taste that is brewed abroad. My love for chai stays with me wherever I stay in the world!

INDIAN FOOD & THE HABIT OF EATING WITH HANDS

Unlike the world, India doesn’t have a cutlery or fork & knife culture. Most of the Indian cuisines are designed to be eaten with bare hands, lapping up the essence of the taste. While the luxury of using the fork and knife shall remain in restaurants, the habit of eating the food items like Rice, khichdi, chapatis, etc., with hands, shall remain.

The certain communion with the food, enhancing the digesting abilities is the main aim for the use of hands. Hands help in texturing the food, making the partaking of sustenance, more intimate. Seeing it scientifically, the use of hands for eating is advisable to a certain extent, as the flora present on the fingers is swallowed, beneficial for the health of various parts of the body like mouth, throat, and intestines as fingers release various digestive juices. This practice of eating with hands is something I look forward to, as I go around the other parts of the world, for its benefits and digestive advantages.

BARGAINING AT STREET SHOPS

Street shops are the powerhouse of all things fashionable at budget-friendly prices. In India, all the latest home décor, clothes, and jewelry are available at great quality and cheap price at the street shops. ‘Cheap’ because the hefty prices quoted by the shopkeepers are bargain-able. Travel anywhere in the world, the most authentic shopping experience lies in street shopping. Being trained in slashing down the prices by almost half in street shopping, the ability to bargain stays as a habit for me. No matter where I go, the trips to street shops would come as a choice, and bargaining will be something I will stick to.

YOGA – THE ART OF LIFE!

Yoga originated in India centuries ago. From ancient yogis to the modern-day yoga instructors, Yoga is a gift of Indian history. The benefits of Yoga for health and life balance have been mind-blowing. It aids in the balancing of the body, mind, and soul for a fulfilled life.

Having grown up in India, Yoga has become one of the daily rituals that keep a check on my physical health and fitness alongside my mental health. The ritual to spread that yoga mat and start practicing with an intention is something I would not give up for anything!

Yoga is fast becoming popular even in the West, for its ability to secure spiritual, mental, and physical health. However, not all its aspects have been tapped in the West; with physical fitness regime widely practiced, to attain body flexibility and stability.

AYURVEDA – SECRET OF NATURE!

Deepest darkest of nature’s secrets rest into the arms of nature! Ayurveda, the science of nature has been of close relevance in India. From home remedies to ayurvedic supplements and medicines – it is something that treats us to live a healthy life.

My Indian living has brought me closer to ayurvedic recipes like that of Turmeric milk, neem leaves, aloe vera extracts, etc, for a healthier life. While the world is educating itself on Ayurvedic benefits, my little world of ayurvedic knowledge stays with me.

The major benefit of Ayurveda is its ability to not harm the patient’s body with the side-effects of the prescribed medicine. Apart from its natural and organic way of healing, it also prescribes better eating habits for a healthy lifestyle and wellbeing. 

ADDRESSING PEOPLE WITH RESPECT

Indians are used to calling every other man as ‘bhaiya’ or brother, especially when they aren’t related to you. This brings in a sense of respect and affection for the person. So when I address a driver, cleaner, shopkeeper, or any man of service around me – it would go as brother or uncle.

For women, the words are didi (sister) and aunty. Instead of addressing people by their names or surnames – I would stick to this personalized call to utter respect in conversations. And yes, ‘Namaste’ wouldn’t be forgotten too!

Greeting and meeting people with warmth is the basis of such a practice. It also binds two (or more) people, with sheer kindness through soothing words. Another way of looking at it is, giving respect to every human being, irrespective of their status, and creed.

Some habits inculcated from childhood are a gift of being born as an Indian. No matter how much I travel or turn into a global citizen – the 6 habits stay with me when I leave India!

Abhishek Bade is a writer and a rover with a passion for writing. He is adept at writing travel-based content which is informative and insightful. 

An Offering

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet there’s a line – “I could be bound in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space.”

Today is March 26, 2020. On the tenth day of the COVID-19 pandemic. I wake up to birdsong of crested red cardinals, whippoorwills, warblers and woodpeckers. Outside in the garden a cluster of yellow and coral poppies are opening their eyes. A blue jay hops and skips from one branch to another talking to his friends about cherry blossoms. A mallard family is quacking their morning assembly by the lake. A baby frog opens his mouth and then stops in mid croak remembering it is dawn and not dusk. I slowly enter body consciousness after a night of dreamless slumber. By now the birds have finished most of their psalms, I rub my eyes and dutifully join in the last hymnal. I have noticed that since most people and their cars are in quarantine, birds and buzzing creatures have become more prolific in their hum in our shared space.

I pass fingers through my uncombed hair and sip my turmeric and cardamom chai. These days I leave a pot of tea simmering on the stove. They say theophylline and theobromine alkaloids in tea don’t allow the stealthy coronavirus to gain a foothold in your throat. I breathe through both nostrils and blow out the stale air. I think of my mother listening to Gauri Aarti on the other side of the planet. Her baby fine hair is oiled and combed and her soft skin wrapped in banana leaves. Mother’s affect is sweet, her body and aura clean. She says: Your thoughts become more neatly organized after you have combed your hair. I don’t argue with her but draw a comb through my curls and braid them.

I think of nurturing times spent in her company. How she kept me clean, healthy, dressed in hand-stitched and beautifully embroidered frocks and pinafores. She waited for me everyday with a flavorful meal and a delectable dessert to soothe my sweet tooth. Then she listened and laughed as I regaled her with my day in school, college, medical school, on the bus, in the train and later at my in-laws’ place. Mother had a rule. Every garment and footwear worn outside the house had to be put for washing as soon as we returned home. We were not allowed to eat street food and because of this golden edict, we escaped several infectious diseases while growing up in India.  

Today when this now airborne virus has spread to 198 countries, infected more than 468, 644 cases and taken 21,191 lives, I am reminded of all the safety precautions mothers instill in their children. This overwhelming disease is causing an insurmountable cost to the world economy! 

We are hunkered down in our abodes and are drawing from familiar resources, old medicines, previous epidemics. Let us take this time to pay homage to the creator of this universe and ask the mother goddess to listen to our plea. After all as I am only a half of my mother’s half, so are you and you and you in Wuhan, in Italy, in Spain, in New York, in Los Angeles,in Seattle…. Together we can overcome this by using our collective intelligence. 

The Sun has rolled higher in the blue sky and I have finished my tea. I look at the light through the slats falling on the French knotted neckline of my mother’s soft blue dress. I imagine her sitting at her dressing table and deftly kohlIng her eyes, pearling her neck, and twisting the tendrils escaping from her chignon. I can never forget the way she looks at my dad as he holds her hand and leads her out for an evening stroll in the park. My fingers rest on the soft fabric of the blue dress and I hold it up to the sun. I want to put it on but I hesitate. Today I will offer it to the Sun as a salutation from my mother because it is not my time to do it. Take this blue dress on your golden chariot to the blue heavens and ask the blue goddess to provide the healthcare workers with an endless supply of blue protective masks because in this solitary hour as they work and care for the sick we can share our stories of life, health, survival, maturity, loyalty, harmony, stability, and peace to heal everyone.

I am relieved that volunteers are making face masks and the federal government is encouraging citizens to wear masks, not N95s but regular surgical ones, home made, bandanas, scarves, any kind really… anything to cover their nose and mouth and to prevent them from touching their face. Let’s hope and pray that all of us can come together virtually to protect the ailing humanity from this fatal affliction.

Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner. She drew the featured image as a symbol of her love for her father.