Thursday, June 28, 2007

Happiness in a coffee-cup

My first recollection of coffee is from more than 20 years ago, when we visited my parents' friends in Bangalore and Chennai. I was fascinated by the all-pervading aroma in each household. I envy each South Indian, especially Tamilian, their filter coffee even today, for I still can't get it right, no matter how much I try. I recently met a Tamilian who said she preferred tea and hated coffee. Blasphemy!

Tea and coffee are religions, and conversions are near-impossible. I need a cup of strong, steaming, fragrant coffee to come to terms with each morning. Give me tea, and I don't think my day will ever start. The followers of bed tea look at me strangely.

I used to be a chai-pakoda person in the monsoon, but that was before. When it rains outside, I sit at the open, long windows of my 4th-floor apartment. The warm mug of coffee feels heavenly when raindrops gush in and fall like fine spray all over me. After the mad morning rush of doing everything that comes with running a household, including packing off husband to office and daughter to school, a cup of coffee is my sigh of relief, the brakes I apply before moving on to the rest of the day. And not so long ago, when I used to work or study through the night, I found that nothing beats the aroma of coffee mixed with fragrant night breeze. In the crisp, cold nights of December, or the raat-ki-rani perfumed nights that brought on warmer weather, this strong brew was my constant companion, keeping me awake and alert.

Connoisseurs are finicky about their brew, but me, I'm a fan. Any good coffee is good for me, as long as it's not too milky or too sweet. The worst coffee I've had is at airports, both Delhi and Mumbai. It's cloyingly sweet, very watery, and usually flavored with 'ilaichi'. And through bitter experience, I learned never to order coffee at any restaurant in Maharashtra. Whether you order coffee or 'Nescoffee', the latter priced double the former, you get a milky, creamy, sugary thing, pale brown in color, with no hint of coffee ever having been added to it.

So, what's your religion?

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