Monday, August 22, 2016

The Politics In Tea

'So how would you like to have your tea?' if asked, one would probably start imaging the Darjeeling, the green, the oolong, the silver tips, the golden tips perhaps or maybe even the orthodox or the humble Indian chai being served and sipped with a delight... seldom would any normal one even remotely think that someone actually asked you 'on what you deserve it to be served in?(!)' 'Would it be in a porcelain cup, tumbler, clay pot or coconut shell perhaps...' Somehow, like many other finer and more uncouthed things that happen in India, this question of 'what to serve the tea in', comes with a need to reveal one's caste-based identity-an identity that could determine your dignity, respect and esteem more than anything else that you would not have to work on to deserve the same. 
It is sad yet a reality that in some shops in India and still many homes, there is a 'double-tumbler' system that prevails when it comes to serving tea. In some tea shops, people considered and labelled, 'the untouchables', are served tea in cheaper and/or broken glass, aluminum, clay, plastic or other disposable containers while dominant caste groups get served in stainless steel tumblers or shiny cups made of glazed china clay. If you are too unfamiliar or unslottable into a particular caste or due to some strange reason, your enigma/charisma is such a put off that the tea-master (the guy who brews the tea), will dare not ask to your face the caste you belong to, then your caste is assumed and to make no mistake, you will be served in a disposable cup and anything equally less. Some of these places-shops and homes included-have even separate entrance for different caste groups-usually the higher through the front and the lower through the rear. 
Why does this happen? I don't know. Why does this still happen? I really don't know. Perhaps people do find some excuse or the other to stratify and discriminate. I really do wonder if there is any scientific research done on this issue in this area to prove that majority of a particular so and so community often let glass or stainless steel cups slip through their fingers and in order to reduce loss to the enterprise, such a scheme is laid. Other than that what else can be even close to an excuse?! Ignorance? Apathy? 
Recently, I came across a canteen inside a superior college, in a state that claims to be 100% literate and in a district where a hartal can be declared at the drop of a hat for any (non)issue-where not two yet a 'triple-tumbler' system is still prevalent. Paper cup, stainless steel tumbler, cup and saucer-student, teacher, clergy-you decide who gets what. Now what do I blame it on?! Ignorance or Apathy?! or a socio-cultural idiosyncrasy in a cultural context in motion? Shame, shame puppy shame... 
Technocratic discrimination has dwindled bureaucratic lines and at times rides comfortably in the girdles of our blindness and our failure to even notice these marked stratification and discriminatory lines. This is the same hollow tunnel through which the comfort of the oppressor creeps in along with a support system that encourages these practices. Everyone is to be blamed. Some for being blissfully ignorant, some for being comfortably apathetic, some for being the confident perpetrators and others for being silent promoters and humble acceptors of these practices. Following the tea trail, the ruin of its reign seems to unfold the more and more one tries to ponder-straight from the slavery used to lay the plantation (Have you read 'What Colour Is The Soil In Munnar?!'to the system of slavery that is installed by the way it is served. 
For now, when I look around and see teachers, students and clergy sip through their tea in a hurry-choosing to carefully ignore this simple yet deliberate mistake happening around them in this canteen-situated within an educational institution-in a state ruled by a group that promises equal treatment to all, I am amazed at the complacency of the discriminated lot who choose not to stand up, nevertheless ask-for whom I write this; as the famous quote by an author unknown goes, '“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” 

Well, at the end of the day, how do I like my tea served? Pretty plain, neat and simple-like everyone else's please. Until then, my ahimsa, my way-am boycotting the canteen until they chose to change the cups along with their attitude. Chai anyone?!


Popson Antony said...

Its really thought provoking ... If i say so really interesting to read it .. Well I don't know this much discrimination happened around me ? As resident from so called 100% literacy state as you mentioned in the article . Which college is doing this atrocity ?

Ajith Fredjeev Dinakarlal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ajith Fredjeev Dinakarlal said...

+Popson Antony: I really think you really need to look around a little bit more. hahaha!