Indians love their tea, even more so than the British I would say – starting a post with a controversial statement like this should do the trick.
However, there is a difference; we do not have a fixed “Tea Time” and pretty much drink it at any time of the day… or night. Rishad Saam Mehta touches the pulse of India and catches on to a brilliant idea of following the tea trail across the country in his own unique fashion documenting it in the book Hot Tea Across India.
Say what you might, but book covers play an important role in capturing the reader’s attention. Off late, thankfully, book covers have started to be appreciated and as a result more attention is given to them. Hot Tea… is one book that is pleasing to the eye. The bright yellow cover with colorful drawings highlighting the theme of the book, that of travel and tea. It only made sense that I plunged into the book in the most appropriate fashion, on a sunny Delhi winter afternoon, outside in my garden, sipping a nice hot cup of tea and eating homemade Pav Bhaji.
Now, contrary to what the title might suggest, the book is more about travel than it is about tea. In fact, “Tea” ends up with more of a cameo role as the book progresses onward with Rishad’s wonderful travelogues. It is a companion, something that is essential and available whenever traveling in India, and what the author so brilliantly portrays, Tea is a medium to sit down, relax, and share stories with friends new and old.
Hot Tea Across India attracts readers of different genres; travel, adventure, biking, India and while tea connoisseurs might be disappointed, there are enough references to tea, especially the importance of having tea in its purest form, that eventual they too would delightfully wait for the national drink to make its next guest appearance in a brand new avatar.
Rishad’s background in the automobile industry quite clearly dominates the book. Talking about bikes, suspension, gears, cars, and the likes, it’s clear that he is as passionate about automobiles as he is about travel. In fact a whole chapter is set aside for a story told from the view point of a car.
As a travel book, Hot Tea Across India is a great reference source if you are looking to discover the less traveled territories of the nation. It serves as a rather informative guide whether you are adventurous and like Rishad want to go to Leh on your Bullet or if you want to relax and take it easy by spending a few days in a shikara on the Dal Lake in Kashmir.
So outlandish are some of the stories that on occasion they seem like borderline fiction, but then that could just be my jealousy creeping out for Rishad seems to have lived a life that would even make a seasoned traveler green with envy.
Just like any good travel writer, Rishad is quick to realize that although tea might be essential in a journey and the destinations mystical and beautiful, the soul of any place is in their locals and he gives enough book space to eccentric and loving characters that he has met in his years of travel.
His coverage of a few dhabas and restaurants is once again so enticing that I could see him host a travel food show similar to Highway on my Plate (Indian TV program usually featuring small food establishments).
Rishad’s writing style is so vibrantly descriptively and his stories extremely visual – ready to pop out of the pages – that they are almost cinematic in nature. So much excitement is in the stories that it wasn’t hard for me to picture myself sitting in a small theater somewhere watching a film about the quirky escapades of this travel writer.
I would however make a note that while I loved Rishad’s writing style in Hot Tea Across India, it was the very same aspect of his new book – Fast Cars and Fidgety Feet – that turned me off. While it was still full of adventure and semi-interesting personal anecdotes, the style lacked the fun element that was so evident in Hot Tea Across India.
Rishad Saam Mehta’s Hot Tea Across India is an interesting and eventful light read, one that every traveler should have on his/her bookshelf. Funny, charming, and full of moments that will make you laugh-out-loud, Rishad doesn’t hold back on the comedy even if the joke is on him.