I remember my own childhood…. In a Jaina family nothing can be eaten in the night; between sunrise and sunset you can eat, you can drink. Naturally the times are fixed and you cannot eat many times in such a small span. So in a Jaina family there is nothing like breakfast, because if you take a breakfast then there will be a difficulty; then lunch has to be a little late, nearabout one – as it is all over the world. But if lunch is at one, supper has to be at five, before sunset. Then there will be too small a gap. Then what about a coffee break? There is not even time for a water break.
So the only way is, drop breakfast, take your lunch at eleven, your supper at five. There must be at least a six-hour gap between two big meals. This is very unscientific, because then after five till the next morning at eleven – such a big gap.
One becomes accustomed, one has to become accustomed – there is no other way – because in a very orthodox Jaina family, after supper everything that is left over is given to the beggars. So there is nothing left in the kitchen that you can find in the night when everybody is asleep. Everything has to be finished because there is no point in keeping it; tomorrow it will be stale. And up to eleven you have to wait.
In my childhood, tea was still not very acceptable. It was introduced by Westerners into India. It came after moving around the world. From China it was introduced into the West – Marco Polo carried bags of tea – and from Europe it came to India. In fact in China the first name in the history of tea is an Indian name, Bodhidharma; he was the first tea grower. It really took a round trip.
And because it came through the Britishers…. In India, among the masses there was an antagonism about everything that was coming through the Britishers; naturally, they were the enemies. And they were distributing tea and coffee free, even with raffle tickets in the packets. If you happened to get a packet with a ticket, you also won a lottery.
The Indian masses were even more reluctant: why so much interest in spreading tea and coffee, investing so much money and so many people in free distribution? I have seen it with my own eyes, in my own town. All the tea companies would come and distribute with big lotteries. But slowly slowly, because of those lotteries, people started opening their packets – and a few rebellious souls started to drink tea and coffee also.
It does not taste good in the beginning; tea and coffee – they don’t taste good. You have to learn the taste; but people who tried, found that it gives a certain alertness. Indians were using smoking tobacco for the same purpose. In fact tobacco and tea both contain a similar ingredient which makes you feel a little more alive, less sleepy, more awake.
So slowly…but it took years, and particularly in the orthodox houses. I must have been nearabout twenty when I first saw tea entering my house, because my grandmother was absolutely against all this nonsense.
“What can be there in just dry leaves? Drink milk drink lassi” – which is made of curd – “which is nourishment. What is this nonsense? What nourishment can there be? And these people,” she used to say, “are befooling you so that you become weak. They want a weak country because slaves should not be strong.”