A good book should leave you… slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it. ~William Styron
With a love for travel, and an equally matched passion for writing, it’s only natural that I take to travelogues like a moth takes to a flame. A friend recommended the book, and I ordered it almost instantly. What had me looking forward to the book, was that I was told me that I’d immediately want to take a road trip after getting done with the book. Having dreamed of more road trips than I’ve been a part of, I welcomed this book with the same excitement I would have a free air ticket to my dream destination. I had high expectations from the book, to say the least.
And, at the cost of skipping right to the end, let me say it didn’t disappoint. Hot Tea Across India is a book all travellers would have dreamed of being a part of. After all, who wouldn’t want to just pack their bags, hop on to their Bullet and take off for the mountains. Just mentioning that envelopes me in a mirage of snow-capped mountains and long winding roads.
What’s unique about the book is that Mehta gives us small snippets into his several journeys, stopping on the way to sip on a glass of steaming hot chai as he rides the mountains, runs away from an irate mob and even after he ducked under barriers to get to Zoji La. While reading it, you can’t help but think how a small glass of tea sparked the idea for a whole book! While it may even sound foolish at the start, Mehta’s journeys, beside revealing his love for the drink, also so vividly shows how comforting (and sometimes, discomforting) a glass of tea could actually be.
What I especially loved about the book, was how vivid a picture Mehta painted for his readers. You can actually visualise him running away from the bearded man in Kargil, or standing behind the jawan holding a carbine outside the Chashma Shahi. Not only do the readers glide through the picturesque routes Mehta traverses on, but they also endure it to the extent he does. He has the readers rooting for him to catch up with Jolly Jhunjhunwalla’s bus, gaping and then laughing with him when Jack fell face first onto the ice on the Raid-de-Himalayas and being terrified with him as the irate mob carried torches to burn his car in Kerala.
Though I knew that each chapter was a short story of its own, I could barely keep the book down. It kept me company on short crowded train journeys and long bus rides too, much to the amusement of the passengers who threw me an annoyed glance every time I would laugh out loud while reading.
Rishad Saam Mehta’s Hot Tea Across India is one book I am truly proud to own – after all, I know for sure, that I will return to the book, and read a couple of chapters whenever I need a strong push to travel, or to even a pick-me-up with a heartfelt laugh when I’m low.