Tea with milk and sugar? Yes, please!

I’m deeply uncool.

Also deeply unhealthy, it would seem.

Now that I’m in my late thirties, my two cups of tea a day are indispensable. Others can have their lattes and mochas and filter coffees, but I need tea as much as… well as much as I need tea.

teaThe tea world is not immune to snobbery, however.

The kind of tea I like, is apparently, Builder’s tea and it is preferred by construction workers on their tea breaks. This is when you add milk and sugar to your brew. Specifically, it’s the kind of tea you make with a teabag, hot water and milk. I may construct words and ideas rather than apartment blocks, but it’s the type of tea I make for myself in my office cafeteria.

The tea I make at home comes in for its fair share of snobbery. It calls for a little more effort than throwing a teabag into a paper cup and humming tunelessly while the electric kettle steams up – but not much more. I measure out milk and water together into the pan, wait for it to reach a near boil and dump the tea leaves right in. I then boil this concoction some more, stir in sugar and strain it.

This restricts my washing up to just three things; which is key if you’re as lazy or rushed as I am.

Going back to my office cafeteria – figuratively – when I go in to get my tea, there’s usually someone there fiddling about with spoons and cups, brewing a healthful cup of green tea or a trendy decaf.  These people watch in fascination as I proceed to add sugar (a teaspoon and a half) and milk (usually a dairy whitener).

As their cups froth, they can’t stop the words from spilling out of their mouths, “What, milk and sugar?”

For milky tea does not have the sophistication of black, green, oolong or jasmine. It’s mundane, pedestrian, expected.

Then they add the clincher: Milky tea is unhealthy. And sugar, why, that’s unthinkable. And so they judge me on my one-and-a-half-spoonfuls, right before they go down to the food-court and order themselves a quarterpounder and fries.

In defense of my unsophisticated, unhealthy habit, I sometimes bleat that I have barely any vices. I seldom drink, do not smoke, eat very little junk food, avoid too much oil or salt, have cut down on colas, sweets and starchy foods, and I’m vegetarian too.

What can I do but sip my sweet milky tea, and smile?

But before I go here’s a steaming cup of something beautiful – this wonderfully curated blog Once Upon a Teatime, that’s full of gorgeous textiles, decor vignettes and pictures of pretty teacups and tea.

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My grandmother’s vintage brooch

brooch1Growing up, I spent years with my grandmother.

She lived to be 80, and so she was a constant, though not always steadying, presence in my life.

She was strong-willed and larger-than-life; quick to love and quick to anger.

While I battled it out with her as a teen, I also knew she was my biggest champion.

By the time I was aware of her, she was old and set in her ways, usually dressed in drab white, with lank hair.

But every now and then I caught glimpses of a different life.

In the sepia albums of her youth, she’s thin, solemn, and interesting, though not precisely beautiful. Her hair is glossy, her blouses trendy, her sarees elegant and her mien, aristocratic.

She loved Norma Shearer as Juliet. Not many people in our little town watched English movies at that time. She also had a notebook in which she’d written down the names and dates of all the movies she’d seen.

She read Russian novels, but I suspect her real love was for moralising Victorian tales such as East Lynne.

She’d tell me about the French nuns in the small town convent where her father worked.

She told me about the time her father went for a 10-minute ride in a glider. And how he wrote his will before he did. That was in the 30s, when air travel was new. He also had a Chevrolet, which thundered by her school every day to pick her up – it was dubbed “Meenakshi’s aeroplane” by her classmates.

She spoke about going shopping as a newly wed, her first time in the big city.

She spoke about how she ruined her eyesight creating an intricate beaded border for a saree, labouring away in the semi dark at times.

She talked about how she’d tried tampons as a married woman, and sanitary napkins, telling me how they were in those days made and sold by individual medical stores.

But we never spoke about this brooch.

In fact, I was not really aware of its existence when she was alive. I know it was hers, because it was in the same glass bottle in which she had hoarded a few treasures – a pair of ruby earrings, a few Australian opals, and other odds and ends.

brooch 2I chanced upon it a few years ago when my mother was rummaging among my grandmother’s things.

I fell in love with its delicate filigree lines, and its muted silver glow.

The dent in the centre, I felt, added character.

(I’ve always been a sucker for anything that’s old and has the least bit of pedigree to it. Which amuses people around me no end.)

With a little pin superglued to the back, and a little scrub with a toothbrush and polish, it is as good as new.

When I wear it, I am intensely aware of the age and ownership of the brooch. I’m also intensely aware of just how quickly the superglue could give way!_20150730_201818

There are several similar brooches that I found online, here, here and here. Some of them seem to be from the thirties, which makes sense. The sprays and pearls in the centre make me wonder if perhaps there was some embellishment like that on this brooch too?

My grandmother’s brooch, I assume, must have been used to fasten the folds of her saree. Where was it made? Where did she buy it from? Did she pick it out herself, or was it gifted to her? Where did she wear it to?

Another mystery lost in the mists of time.

Growing up

My kids are 13 and 12, discovering the world, and themselves.

Their 38-year-old mother is discovering the world, and herself.

Sometimes, I think the clock stopped when I was 24. Books stopped. Movies stopped. Music stopped. Opinions – well they could not possibly stop, but they were less expressed.

I wrote. I dreamt. I read.

But everything I wrote was to serve other masters. To sell homes, holidays, happiness.

I dreamt about packing lunches, bus stops, report cards. I did. I woke up in the morning relieved that those were just dreams.

I read but everything I read just filled my head and made it spin and took me far away and brought me right back.

Make no mistake, it was a fulfilling life in itself.

Then suddenly my children were older and did not need my hands, my lap, my thoughts every minute.

Now what?

I find my feet again. I invest in friendships again, and give more time to those I already have. I walk my city and explore: it’s like being out in the sun again after a long winter. I read to develop my opinions, and learn to talk about non-parenting issues.

I’m more than ready to leave my children’s protective embrace.

I discover time has not really stopped at 24. I feel less passionately about some things and more passionately about others. I’m wiser and more confident, and yet, sometimes I feel like it’s all new and different.

How would I have grown, if at 24 I had not become a mother? Would I have grown differently?

Thoughts on the train #21

I really must start using a fountain pen again, she thought. A classy black one with a handcrafted silver nib. Engraved with little curlicues and monograms. I must buy a beautiful notebook with handmade paper, and fill it with profound scrawlings in gleaming black ink.

Just then, the phone beeped. Quickly, dexterously, she typed out a response, thumbs flying.