In France it's 'un court, ou un allonge avec un petit chocolat'. In England it's 'tea and crumpets' or perhaps 'tea and cucumber sandwiches'. A long lost English lover called it 'builder's tea'. What does that mean?
In India, it's chai an samosas. The sugary milky cardamom and ginger laced black tea marries well with the greasy spicy potato and green pea filled pastry. I love this afternoon snack, more than I thought possible. Indians reeeeeally know their tea. Do they get it from the Brits? This I must find out.
Tea stalls are scattered all over the places I've visited in India. Usually served by men(and boys... lots and lots of youngsters). The best to date is my chai guy in Manimajra, Chandigarh. I watch him methodically spoon loose tea, then heaps of white sugar in cream coloured liquid, crush ginger with a slab (is this hygienic?) and let it boil and boil. He serves me this gorgeous coloured drink. I didn't know it goes best with samosas until I started paying attention to the other stall patrons loitering in the early afternoon. Most of them had a couple samosas in one hand and their glass of tea in the other.
I work at the slum. My boss told me when he bought cups for his staff was when he finally got them to talk, to open up, to dish. A good excuse for taking a break indeed. And once cups were part of the accessories in the staff room, Frederick confided in me that the slum workers felt like 'somebody'. "I was nothing before." said Sangeeta, sipping the near boiling beige drink. Frederick looks at her with astonishment. "Actually! Dr. Frederick you have made me somebody, only!" I think he is embarrassed by her honesty. She puts down her glass and rushes out. He is dazed. Ten minutes later she rushes in with a brown paper big brimming with samosas. "We need to eat this while having chai in the afternoons, Dr. Frederick sir!" And she proceeds in handing out napkins topped with a couple of samosas to each staff member.
It seems like such a luxury, don't you think? Drinking this dessert like beverage coupled with a snack that fills like a meal? THIS is India to me: A breathing paradox. And it's only noon.