When ever I hear the word "tea" , there is an incident that comes flashing to my mind, and the thought of it makes me smile. Let me narrate it to you.
It was a very busy day. My father was ironing my costumes for the day, my mother hurrying over the eleventh hour preparation of the lec-dem she was about to deliver, and I was busy in front of the mirror , dressing up for the dance performance. My brother had to shoulder the responsibility of tidying up and give an appealing touch to our front room , for we were expecting a guest. He would be here any moment. He r he would have secretly appreciated the tea making abilities of his school going son.
Meanwhile Amma was ready and rushed to the kitchen to get a sip of the remaining hot tea, for she was having sore throat. I could see her gargling intermittently in the morning with hot salt water. She had to give a long lecture in front of a crowd ,
and she always relied on home remedies.As soon as I saw her taking her sip of the tea, she involuntarily spat it into the kitchen sink, her face filled with a strange expression, something nearing the "bheebhalsa rasa" ! I ran to her, worried
witnessing her strange behavior.
Amma was shouting at my brother, "Did you serve this tea to our guest ?". My brother nodded a yes .
"You made tea with the water I had heated up for gargling! It was loaded with salt , Oh! my GOD! how could we serve it to our guest? " she gasped.
His asking for water and his strange inquiries regarding tea drinking in our community did have a meaning! He had courteously finished his salt ginger tea , suppressing his natural facial expressions.
When my mother explained to him what had happened and mumbled her apologies he just replied, " I'll never forget this meeting!"
This was an incident which took place nearly 15 years ago. But how could one forget such an incident.
I wondered what tea I would be served,as I was on my way to Kajiyoshi San's house. I was invited by this gentleman,whom I greatly admired, to his house for a tea ceremony.Tea ceremony was an entirely new experience for me.
Kajiyoshi San and his wife Sadami San , welcomed me to their house , which reflected their aesthetic sense and love for Nature. As soon as I entered their house Sadami San directed me to a small water fountain they had fixed at their entrance where I was asked to wash my hands and face with a bamboo laddle.The cool flowing water was energizing and revitalizing. I was directed to a room which was sparsely furnished , but had something in it to elevate one's spirits.The room was a tatami room, the floor spread with reed mats.
There was antique pottery and unique calligraphy,and a humbleness and simplicity about the whole ambiance.
The tea ceremony first began in Buddhist monasteries and was known for its medicinal values.The monks had the tea made of bitter powdered tea leaves to keep themselves awake during meditation.The coming of Zen Buddhism , made it more popular. It was called " Chado or Sado".This tea ceremony lasted for 4 hours.The host would go through the detailed preparation of tea , giving emphasis to each an every movement. There was a perfect unison of the body , mind and spirit during this ceremony.It reflected Japanese spiritual tradition and culture.The guests will be first served a sweet, which should be eaten sitting in "vajrasana" on the tatami mat.Then the guest will be served the first serving of thick brewed tea.There are rules to be followed here too. The guest lifts up the fine work of pottery which holds the tea ,asking permission from the person seated at his left , whether he can have it.Carefully turning the front of the bowl , to face him he can sip the tea.He should now wipe the place where he had sipped with the small finger of his right hand. Then placing the bowl in front , now the bowl facing away from him, with his elbows on the knees one should appreciate the art work on the pottery.The bowl now is passed to the person sitting on the left.The second serving is a dilute version of the tea.The whole process is like a meditation which flows in a very soothing and slow motion.It is practiced as an entertainment for spiritual upliftment.It is a process where you are taught to think of others first.I went through this whole process , thoroughly enjoying every moment.At the end of four hours I was feeling lighter and purged.
I am grateful to Kajiyoshi San and his wife Sadami San for giving this taste of Japanese culture .
I too mumbled the words with a bow as I said oyasu minasai (good night) to my friends," I'll never forget this meeting!"......