In most Wodehouse books would be a character who lacks the nerve to tell the woman he loves about his feelings, or one who is afraid to demand money he badly needs, from the Uncle who is the trustee of his inheritance. The solution lies in making even the teetotalers among them gulp down the brew that intoxicates, partaking of which, they acquire the required bravado to do with elan, that which up till then seemed an insurmountable task. It is another matter that they drink themselves pie-faced and go overboard, jeopardizing their position, necessitating the quick intervention of stalwarts like Jeeves, Gally and Psmith, to name a few, to save the day.
Curiously enough, a somewhat similar change happens to me when I drink something. No, no. I don’t profess love to anyone, or ask a share of my inheritance. Still, there is a marked change in personality that within a few moments of ingesting the fluid, the drooping me with the I-am-loathe-to-meet-the-world attitude is transformed into sweetness and light. with a bring-on-the-world-and-I-will-set-things-right outlook. If I had riches to bestow I’d bestow them left, right and also centre, on all and sundry like nobody’s business. In fact, I do make quite a pest of myself being a cheerful ray of sunshine, brightening up even those corners that prefer to remain obscurely dark. Such is the magic effect on me of the cup that cheers, tea.
Strange as it may seem, for the first four decades of my life, we were strangers to each other, tea and I. Not only was I a no-tea person, but was also a no-coffee person (which I still am, by the way). That made going pretty tough, having to always wriggle out of tea and coffee being forced on you whenever you tagged along with the parents on visits. The next step was milk (which I h.a.t.e) or Bournvita and/or Horlicks, which were also a big no-no for me, being offered as substitutes. ‘’But how can you not have anything?’ went the refrain each time. Not having anything appealed immensely to me any day to drinking any of the detested warm drinks. But try selling that idea to Indian hosts, to whom hospitality means feeling good by forcing things on guests regardless of their preferences.
Anyway having survived many such ordeals, I next had to contend with hosts in the capacity of a married woman. “What? Are you trying to save costs?” went the query. I replied that the L & M drank enough coffee and tea (and more), for both of us. It was the truth. The number of cups that he drank! In fact he once told me that if someone woke him up in the middle of the night and gave him coffee, he’d gladly drink rather than crib about being woken up. Hmm… Come to think of it, perhaps that had been a hint. Anyways… That is how much he likes the beverage, he says. On hearing him I remember rolling my internal eyes. No, I am actually making that up. I was a docile young wife and did no rolling of eyes those days. I only marveled at his reply, unable to understand anyone’s fascination for either tea or coffee (or milk, Bournvita or Horlicks for that matter).
Before leaving for Northern parts of India after marriage, my southie friends and extended family made it a point to gleefully tell me how in a few years time, I’d turn into a heavy tea drinker, or may be a coffee-drinker. They snickered that NO ONE ever got through the cold winters of Northern India without the help of either of these two drinks. Naturally, they had to eat their words as I proved them wrong. I continued to ignore tea and coffee. More than 15 years later, when I returned to settle down south, I was still the same no-tea-or-coffee person and had to hear a lot of, “What? You still don’t drink tea or coffee? Not even after all those winters?”
The winters had always found me with a glass of soft drink in my hand at parties, while everyone else (I mean most of the ladies, because the gentlemen obviously had more interesting drinks in their hands) drank their hot teas or coffee as the case may be. I still remember how amused I had been when one of the officers looked askance at the contents (nimbu pani) of the glass in my hand and called out to the L & M,
“Hey, don’t you think your wife has got the wrong drink in her hand?”
Something obviously changed eventually, because in my 40th year, I started drinking tea, a little at first, and then before I knew it, ever so gradually, the glass got bigger. Then it was not enough that I have my morning cuppa, the longing for tea surfaced at all times of the day. But since I hate addiction of any sort, I restricted my cups of tea to a strict two. I confessed to the L & M that if I did let myself go, I’d probably beat him hollow soon enough. Now, it embarrasses me greatly to think how, all those years back, I pontificated to him about the bad effects of too many cups of tea and coffee he consumed (though of course I NEVER stopped him), trying to get him to reduce intake.
Sometimes I regret having started drinking tea. When I am out of my own home, I am forced to depend on tea made by others. I HATE it when people pour bucketfuls of milk into a single cup of tea and completely RUIN it. So I either ask for black tea or if I possibly can, I insist on making my own tea.