Chai, the Hindi word for tea, was introduced to India by the British in the early 1900s and gained popularity in the 1950s as a recreational drink for the masses. Today, India is the largest producer of chai and 70% of it is consumed domestically. This recreational drink wove its strong and addicting yarns into the social fabric of India. Chai now works mostly like a talisman for Indians all over the world.
Psychology of an Indian in relation to Chai
Indians take Chai very seriously. It is not just another drink; it is a statement that one makes to guests, both in its presentation and the mood that it is served. It is a difference between hospitality and insult. Acting like a balm, chai heals physically and psychologically. When an Indian addicted to chai (mostly everyone is) doesn’t get it on time (which is almost all the time) – it can engender serious mood swings, increased palpitations, and can also sever relations. Almost every Indian has heard this statement at some point in his or her life: “we went to their house and they didn’t even offer tea!” This is a very serious allegation one can make about anyone and an equally drastic reaction by the complainant is totally acceptable in the chai drinking Indian society.
When is chai needed by an Indian?
The ever- powerful, all- inspiring chai drives almost each and every Indian to move, groove, approve and remove and is a constant accompaniment at all the times that we are logical, ethical, melancholy, or unwell.
Although most Indians drink chai in the morning and in the afternoon, there is no set time or occasion for this blood pumping liquid. Hot, freshly brewed chai with herbs is a must for Indians after a funeral, during a meeting, at the end of a long sermon or after painful childbirth. Warmth seeps into the body just by holding a hot cup of chai on chilly evenings. Indians also drink hot tea to beat the heat in summer months …something like a Zen effect. Anecdotes such as a family getting together to be with a dying member of the family and the dying member suddenly getting up and asking for chai are infrequent but not unheard of in Indian society.
What a cup can mean for Indians?
A cup of good chai can transport an Indian to his or her own heaven. Chai can lead to tears of joy or feel like raindrops on a dry, barren landscape. This scalding cup of nectar brings a family together, welcomes guests appropriately, and is a known catalyst that seals and settles deals and disputes amicably. A second cup is better than the first and the third better than the second; the laws of diminishing marginal utility fail to impact this patriotic drink.
Whether daintily drinking from exquisite bone china cups sitting in a fancy drawing room or slurping from a clay cup standing on crowded train stations, chai never fails to influence Indians. If one ever needs to impress the parents of an Indian girl or boy, invite them over for tea and serve it with great politesse asking them to have more. Chances of a positive outcome will be greater.
4 thoughts on “The Chai-ism”
Enjoyed it even more than I enjoy chai! Thank you Prachi! You sealed it with “a scalding cup of nectar that brings family together”.
Thank you Nidhi! Glad you enjoyed the piece!