Title : Hot Tea Across India
Author : Rishad Saam Mehta
Publisher : Tranquebar
ISBN : 978-93-81626-10-8
Roadside tea stalls, though unassuming, make their presence felt almost everywhere throughout India. They do not just serve a rejuvenating drink - tea, to wary travelers but work as perfect guides for some priceless information to the people on roads - local news updates, correct short cuts to reach next milestone, current updates on road conditions, pointers to inexpensive places to stay, nearest eating joints as well as restrooms. Tea which is soon going to get its due by being honored as India's national drink, humbly conjoins the adventures of Rishad Saam in 'Hot Tea Across India'.
Rishad Saam Mehta is a travel writer and has embarked on many journeys across the length and breadth of India from Leh to Munnar and from Rann of Kutch to Khajuraho. He sums up his experiences on roads by pointing out - 'If there is one certainty about roads in India, it is that - no matter where you are or what the hour is - if you want a cup of tea, you'll find a chai ki dukaan within a few kilometers' . Through this piece of writing, he brings a slice of Indian-ness on the highways and roads. He is an enthusiast traveler and took up a job with Autocar Indian that had him going on a driving holiday to exotic locations within India once every month for eight years.
After having partaken many cups of tea - in different parts of India, in different situations, hosted by diverse people ranging from dacoits to sadhus, at various altitudes and in multifarious mental states, his belief got reinforced that tea is one beverage which brings the security of known in unknown and a bit of solace amidst confusion.
The book is full of adventure and the narrative is hilarious and breezy. Vivid descriptions of various characters and places are weaved beautifully which make the scenes buzz with life. Special mention needs to be made of the bus ride experience in Himalayas from Haridwar to Manali with all sorts of co-passengers including a herd of bleating goats.
It is a travelogue but not a travel guide though it leaves the readers resolving silently in their hearts to visit some of the exotic places that are described in the book.
The author seems to take keen pleasure in cracking jokes on anything related to daily ablution routine and such jokes crop up quite frequently through out the narrative. At some points it is very obvious that the author is trying too hard to make the narrative witty and hilarious but such instances are rare and far between so can be ignored easily.