I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the hospitality in India.
I mean, it’s not that common here in the States that we are invited into someone’s home for a cup of coffee or tea when we stop by just for a moment to drop something off or something quick like that.
But in India, it is often expected.
At least in the areas where we were.
Heck, even the horse feed guy I worked with did that. I’d go to his shop to pick up the sacks of feed, and his wife would make me coffee or chai while the guys loaded the jeep. Then we’d all stand around and drink awkwardly, trying to make a little small talk.
I love the custom, but it also makes it challenging to plan your day. You can’t always just swing into a shop to pick something up quickly. If you’re offered tea, it’s good to say thank you and accept it instead of being rude and blowing off the offer.
But maybe hospitality is what we need to get out of that rut of running around and trying too hard to avoid human contact while doing our errands.
I don’t know about you, but I am one of those people who will put in my earbuds when I go shopping, and choose the self-checkout lane whenever possible. I have no problem with a shopping trip that doesn’t involve much human interaction.
But maybe I should slow down and smile at people. Invite people in for tea. Make a point of trying to connect, even if the person is only a work contact.
On that note, here is a recipe for chai that an Indian friend taught me. The amounts can be adjusted, depending on how you like your chai.
2 stalks spearmint (we have it growing wild around here, which is great, because it is my favourite)
1/2-1 in ginger piece, diced. The finer it is chopped, the more flavour it will release into the chai. You can also put it in a garlic press if you want, but I don’t like cleaning them afterward.
2/3 cup of whole milk
1/3 cup of water
1 TBSP loose leaf black tea
1 tsp sugar
- Put milk, water, tea, mint, and ginger in a pan.
- Bring to a boil.
- Allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes.
- Remove from heat.
- Strain into mug.
- Add sugar to taste.
This goes well with gingersnaps, or any kind of biscuit you like. I enjoy it with Tiger Biscuits, but you don’t really see those here.
I don’t know about you, but when someone takes the time to make me a cup of chai, I feel like they genuinely care about me. Maybe it’s just habit to them, but it seems like something more to me.
I worked for a lady who had an amazing housekeeper, and when the boss was gone, the housekeeper would have me come in and have chai with her. We would chat as she made the chai, and let me tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever had chai as good as hers.
She would always give me a china cup instead of the tiny metal cups that the workers used, and it was our little ritual when the boss was gone.
Even now, a few years after the fact, it still brings a smile to my face.
What says hospitality to you? Is it a specific meal or beverage, or certain words? Or just a feeling you get upon entering a house?