By Purba Ray
Moon Moon Sen didn’t get her bed tea on time. As a Bengali with more tea than blood in her veins, I could feel her immense pain of having to wake up to the worst possible scenario. This is even worse than someone posting Game of Thrones spoilers on Twitter on a Monday morning and ruining your life forever. And when your day is in the doldrums, it’s perfectly normal to confuse Asansol with Asshole and counter everything with “Aar ki bolbo, bolo? (What more can I say?)”
“Aar ki bolbo bolo” is an extremely unnatural state for the always enlightened Bengali, the human version of L’Oreal shampoo. We come with a unique formula that makes us five times more cultured, opinionated, and intellectually evolved than the rest of the country because we are obviously five times more well read than any of you. Since we come from the same stable as Rabindranath Tagore, Satyajit Ray, Amartya Sen, and Paul Samuelson (or Samol-sen as we call him), it gives us the licence to act many times more superior than any human species on Earth.
As Bengalis, we have long accepted we are far from ordinary and expect nothing less than extraordinary from our bed tea. We drink only Darjeeling because the rest is raabbish and prefer calling anything that’s not Darjeeling “Eesh, kee jataa bolo toh!” (What utter nonsense!)” Darjeeling must be treated with respect and not thrown in a pot of water and boiled to so much awfulness that it needs spices and a gallon of milk to be made palatable. Nope, not our Darjeeling. She’s a diva just like Ms Sen and needs to be soaked for exactly six minutes in a teapot made of finest porcelain and served with just a hint of milk and sugar. If it’s first flush, you don’t even add the hint.
There’s only one way to have your bed tea. You hold the cup and the saucer tenderly, like it’s a gilauti ready to disintegrate, inhale its aroma with your eyes closed, and slowly bring the cup to your lips to take the first sip. The first sip must be accompanied with an “aaaaaah” that comes from the pit of your stomach. As it makes its way to your throat, it must gather all the unspent emotions from your heart, the air from your lungs and reverberate with so much ecstasy that even the rosebush on your window ledge does an eye roll. The aah is not just for the chaa, it is an acknowledgment of the refined sensibilities of the person who made the tea.
If you have the misfortune of being a guest in a Bong household, along with the tea, you will be served the history and geography of the hallowed tea set that belonged to our Thhamma(grandma), the first-ever Bengali to have graduated from college at the age of eight. Did I tell you about the time she visited Paris and changed the course of Paul da’s (Gauguin) life forever when he spotted her drying her hair with her favourite gamcha in the balcony? Just when you are about to stifle a yawn, another cup of tea will appear magically by your side. We just hate it when our audience becomes inattentive.
Now that we have your attention, you will be able to witness for yourself, how a few sips later we transform from our “cholbo naa, korbo naa” (won’t budge, won’t work) state to maverick thought leaders capable of comprehending that when there are riots in your constituency, you can’t pretend it away, leave alone justify it. With tea surging through our veins, our head starts overflowing with solutions to stop Jakarta from sinking in the ocean, to make forever-parched Cape Town liveable, and to make Donald Trump love the Mexicans again. But as far as Babul Supriyo goes, “Don’t say his name please.”
We drink only Darjeeling because the rest is raabbish and prefer calling anything that’s not Darjeeling “Eesh, kee jataa bolo toh!” (What utter nonsense!)”
Now you know why poriborton is as alien to West Bengal as hope is to an Avengers fan right now. It’s only because our love for chaa is not getting the adulation it deserves.
There really is a lot more to our bed-tea theory. As the day progresses, the tea sheds its sophistication and becomes a sweet and thick version that we can buy from the numerous stalls dotting Kolkata. We can have it in sweltering heat and mumble “boddo gorom” as we take sips from a steaming cup. It tastes even better when we have it sitting on the rock, from cups so tiny that it can barely fit two tablespoons of the beverage. We can have it with shingara, chow mein, or even rosogulla.
Chaa is to Bengalis what soya sauce is to the Chinese, the seasoning that uplifts the ordinary to legendary. Our mind starts bolting faster than Usain could and coins the most “byapok” (expansive) terms for the mundanest of emotions. If history tells us anything, bed tea can make or break your day.
Rani Mukherjee made those tone-deaf comments on #MeToo because she didn’t get her bed tea obviously. When Dada waved his shirt from the Lord’s Balcony he’d definitely downed more than one cup of bed tea. Devdas’s drinking problem is because of the lack of bed tea. Moon Moon Sen, I’m certain, would have known about the violence in Asansol if she got her tea on time. If Didi loses this election, it’ll be something to do with bed tea.
And that Yeti the Army spotted in the Himalayas… I can assure you, he was a fully fed up one-legged Bengali who went hopping to find his bed tea.
Aar ki bolbo, bolo.