Sunday, May 15, 2011

Half way to Nirvana

You cannot get any more Indian. Watch a desi dip his biscuit in a hot cup of tea. There is a sense of peace that steals up over his face, a feeling that all is right with the world. I have not witnessed a greater existential affirmation than moving that soggy bite up to the face, all the while gazing into the distance with that calm, meditative and contemplative look. Indians go into a trance with Chai biskut. It is the most reasonably priced tranquilizer in the world, beating the new fangled mood elevator hands down.

Indians are patient by nature; the Chai biskut makes them even more so. It is deep seated, this urge to dunk the baked product in steaming, milky fluid. You may be the fanciest glitterati and chatterati but faced with this unpretentious pair up, I wouldn’t put it past you to steal a quick look around, make a dash of the dip and pop it into the mouth in one swift upsweep. God help you though if the tea is too hot and the dipped portion begins to sink to the bottom of the cup. You have to see the desperate lunge for that steel spoon that follows to fish it out; your reflexes have to be razor sharp to rescue that sodden sup. A second’s delay and there is nothing left to scoop out. Many an Indian has suffered that acute sense of loss when gulping down dregs containing remnants of a lost cause.

It is not that upscale shortbread cookies, chocolate chip cookies or oatmeal cookies are not manufactured in Hindustan but really, it is a close call between Glucose Biscuit and Atta Biskut. There is not a soul on the ancient subcontinent that does not know the difference. The processed, sugary feel of the former and the airy, full mouthed swallow of the latter. Options are available, such as Britannia, Parle G or Tiger glucose biscuits. Within the atta biskut family, there is the less atta and the more atta. My vote is for the big, coarse, porous and light “baeskut” baked in a cottage bakery at Moga, secret ingredients being the self-grown wheat and the home made ghee; both produce of the Sangha Farm on GT Road. In June every year, during our vacation time, Bebe ji would trundle off on the tractor carrying the raw material to the bakery and come evening, two huge canisters full of freshly baked “baeskut” would come trolling back on bumpy wheels to make their triumphant entry into the gated farm.

Make no mistake; the urge does not spare the highest in the land. They all do it. I have seen Rahul Gandhi dipping his biskut in the cup on TV, was it at Satveer Singh’s place in Bhatta Parsaul? Laloo’s is in the Chai, a constant. For the movers and shakers, for the humdrum and junta, it is the cup that cheers, the biskut that binds. The possibilities are limitless. Anything can happen over Chai biskut !

What’s more, known the world over for our thrifty genome as we are, we like to leverage benefits. So we add value to the daily cup by slurping it in with a gurgling increases the enjoyment manifold. Try pouring a quarter into the saucer and swilling it in. Pure heaven. And just as we have nicknames flowing out of hearts full of affection for our Tillus, Bablies, Gappus and Pappus, the biscuit is variously known as biskeet, baskut and biskut.

The full and total lowdown on the Chai biskut cult can be caught at any Indian Railway Station. You will find us there, the pinkie extended away from the tea cup, half way to nirvana. Clumps of ordinary, contented citizens, punctuating the wholesome gulps with a wipe of the brow....the tropical climate you know.....

What wine is to France, Sake is to Japan, Vodka is to Russia, well Chai is to India.
We Indians, we dip our biskut in Chai and we are ok. It keeps us sane. So do put those tea bags and Green Label aside. Masala Chai anyone?!

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