“Chai” (tea) has a special place in any urdu household. Growing up at my parent’s house, tea would always be ready every day exactly at 4pm. This was the time the grownups would be getting up from their afternoon naps called “kehloolas”. So tea was just what they needed to feel fresh again. Tea is a gift Pakistan got from the British when they decided to colonize the sub-continent. The hot drink is totally inappropriate to the warm climate. The local popular drinks were “shikanjbeen” (lemonade), “Lassi” (Yogurt drink) and “Gannay Ka Rus”. Green tea was also popular due to the Persian and Arab influence. However tea became popular with the British and has taken strong roots in our culture.
If you like me have a four year old in your house, you probably spend many an afternoons having tea parties. A couple of days ago I had a friend over for morning tea. Our plan quickly escalated (as most desi* plans do when they involve food) into a full-blown breakfast involving halwa, poori, cholay and aalo ka bhurta along with ofcourse tea. My daughter noticed that I had set up the table partially in the backyard as we left the house to drop her to preschool. I told her I was having an “urdu” tea party with my urdu friend. Since she has many friends especially through her preschool my daughter classifies her friends who can speak urdu as the urdu friends, because she can speak the language with them. She was most determined to have an Urdu Tea Party of her own soon.
This morning we decided to have our Urdu Tea Party. We always use water instead of regular tea and my daughter knows how much I love my water so she decided to give me a glass instead of a cup for this tea party. I always encourage her to set the table herself so that she learns essential planning and thinking-ahead skills (missing in most adults sadly). Ofcourse we sometimes end up with mismatched cups and saucers, but I stop myself from pointing this out to her and instead encourage her effort.
My daughter like me is a relentless planner. As soon as we decided that this morning was a lovely day to have an urdu tea party she began thinking of the menu. We decided to make “parathas” (fried flat thin bread). In our house we take our parathas very seriously. We invite our friends over for “Paratha Parties” where my husband cooks fresh parathas that we serve along with omelet, khatay aalo and kabab for brunch. My daughter has her preschool friends over for “Paratha Playdates”. The children make parathas together and have endless fun playing with the dough and giving it shapes. I fry it in the end for them. I always love observing how every child eats their paratha differently. Some with scrambled eggs, others with strawberries and yet others with sugar on top. As you can see parathas make me digress from the topic…
So for our urdu tea party my daughter made a lovely butterfly shape for me and a heart shape for herself. We use cookie cutters to give the parathas shape. I love how she is a total girlie-girl one minute and a complete tomboy the next. I got a chance to observe that again this morning as she decided between a ninja and a heart shape for herself. In the end she chose the heart shape but the ninja was a strong contender.
I loved her table arrangement. My daughter goes to a Montessori preschool and flowers are an important part of the environment. She borrowed our tulips from the counter and set up a place for me and herself.
We enjoyed some lovely conversation over parathas and water as she kept pouring more water for both of us. Note to self: More tea parties encourage healthy water drinking. The baby looked on wistfully and made a few attempts to pick the saucer and munch on it.
I love gupshup (chit chat) over tea. There is something about holding a warm drink between your hands, and actually talk to the other person, without phones, without a TV or another screen. To really listen, absorb and communicate. I remember endless tea sessions from my childhood, where I would tell endless stories of my day to my dadi (paternal grandmother) , my sister and my mother as we dipped Rus in our tea and enjoyed a lovely bonding time. I realize now being a mother myself, that how much you learn about your child as you let them just talk. Let them talk about their day, their friends, their imaginary friends, their worries, their plans and just listen. Listen hard, without distractions and make mental notes. I know my daughter loves these tea parties but I just cherish them. Each and every one of them is special. I hope one day she will think back nostalgically about our tea parties as I think about my childhood ones.
I also hope that baby brother is soon included. So tell me, do you enjoy tea parties?
*desi is a term used to describe people from the subcontinent