Hot Tea Across India by Rishad Saam Mehta
Anecdotes from the travels of a professional travel writer have been stringed together as this book Hot Tea Across India and the string is tea stalls across the country. Anyone who has traveled even a bit in this country would know that tea stalls are such an integral part of the journey. They not only provide this national drink to re-charge the travelers but also act as Information Centre’s to check if we are on the right road, the road conditions, the best way to take and if you are a women traveler to find out where the nearest washroom could be found. Though only 4 ingredients go into making tea, there are thousands that can be added for the flavor and this makes the tea every few kilometers a unique experience, just like Bananas change shape and size and you move across the country in a train.
Author is one of those lucky people in this world who get to do the work they enjoy and get paid for it. So as a part of a magazine he got to drive across various roads of India, especially the highest and the most difficult ones. He some time added a dash of ‘not really required’ adventure to the travels, but then that is what the travels do to you if you travel too much. They give you the confidence in a strange land that you can do what you want and will somehow manage the situation if required. Non-travelers may find some of his adventures a figment of an imagination, but I can tell you life-in-reality can be sometimes more bizarre than the fiction, especially when you are in an unknown land, do not understand the language and are tired after a long drive.
A substantial part of the book covers Rishad’s travels across Manali Leh-Ladhakh-Srinagar route. He revisits these places several times. And seems to know the region and it’s roads very well. There is a bit of sprinkling of Jaisalmer, Gujarat, Khajuraho, Belur, and Munnar. But more to tell the anecdotes than to introduce you to those places. In the Himalayas, he actually takes you to the place. There you actually see what he is going through and what he is experiencing. While at other places you just hear the anecdote and miss out on the place.
Hot Tea Across India is an interesting read, but sometimes I found it a bit random. I would have wanted him to introduce the rest of the places also better. And mention what year and season was he there. That would have helped readers visualize the place in entirety. While most of the times he was talking in first-person, in one place he lets his first car speak. Sometimes he clubs his anecdotes under a chapter like the one on guides. And sometimes they are random incidents. A bit of uniformity is what the reader in me looks for. But the traveler in me is fine with these random recallings that lead from one to another when you are sharing those stories with other travelers or telling them to those who are in awe while listening.
He could have also brought in a bit of himself through people around him. He mentions only two friends and a girlfriend but in quite un-engaged manner. But then I know that the best travels are the ones you do solo. When you are 100% in your new surroundings. And there is no common thread that takes you back anywhere else. When you connect with the person you are talking to. And want to go on listening to them till they are tired of telling you.
I really like the cover design of the book Hot Tea Across India. Covering all the elements that the author touches upon in his stories. A quick couple of hours kind of read, with as easy a language as possible. Those who travel will find resonance with author’s emotions. And those who do not can do some armchair traveling by reading through.
Read Rishad Saam Mehta’s interview to Anu Reviews.
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