Contributed by Naheed Rahman
When I was given the book “Hot Tea across India”, I was actually expecting recipes of different types of teas supplemented by pakoras of unending variety. I had just been gifted a box containing 5 varieties of Green “Tulsi” tea flavoured with Ginger, Cinnamon , honey, lemon and mint and was under the impression that my knowledge of tea and its preparation would be substantially enhanced. The review at the back did mention saffron infused tea, something that we have during the holy month of Ramzaan after Iftaar .
Flicking across the pages, the word “pahalgam” flitted across my eyes. Our amazing trip to Kashmir this summer was fresh in my mind and I started to read that chapter and it turned out to be a sort of a travelogue. The chapter “The Pathan of Pahalgam” was quite moving and spoke well of the amazing Kashmiri hospitality that we too had experienced. I quickly flicked to another chapter in Kashmir where he gloats about the amazing food at “Ahdoos” the amazing eatery in Srinagar that my wife became addicted to during that divine week. Both the chapters made for good reading and I decided to restrain my initial disappointment and read ‘Hot Tea Across India’ from cover to cover.
‘Hot Tea Across India’ is a travelogue written by Rishad Saam Mehta who is an adventure enthusiast. His travails on a Bullet, the ‘70s iconic motorcycle, will appeal to all who have a sense of adventure and either love roughing it out on holidays or indulge in biking holidays or just love India, which I guess includes a large part of the book reading population!
Rishad has based the book on his travels mostly in North India, something that I identify with having visited most of the places that he has mentioned. Stories on how he had to pay Chai Paani (bribes) to portly policemen at checkposts and unscrupulous railway clerks sound quite like what my favourite humorist Mr Khuswant Singh would narrate.
Most of the adventures or misadventures ranging from the one where the railways department nearly lost the motorcycle he had parcelled to being mistakenly apprehended as a terrorist make for a very zesty read. Hot Tea Across India has the tempo of a James Hadley Chase novel (spoiler: no blondes within or on the cover) and I finished it in about 4 hours. I am not sure if all the stories within are true because it all seems too much adventure for one person; I do concede Rishad’s memoirs make for some very entertaining reading. Having said that, 20 breezy chapters for Rs.195 (Rs.146 0n Flipkart) is not a bad deal at all. Perhaps I’ll buy my own copy!
Overall I think it’s a well written book that one can read on a lazy weekend and enjoy it more than most TV programmes. Highly recommended for travelers and if you’ve travelled to Leh, Srinagar or any of the places mentioned in Hot Tea Across India, that will be more cream in your cuppa!