(It was extremely nice of the website http://www.blogadda.com to have selected me for reviewing Rishad Saam Mehta’s latest book titled “Hot Tea Across India”. I wish to express my thankfulness to the site for giving me this opportunity and for ensuring the timely delivery of the book.)
Hot Tea Across India is Rishad Saam Mehta’s new book about his adventurous expeditions to so many parts of India. The stories of the many trips amiably told give the reader a wonderful glimpse of the landscapes and the people he encounters on the way. It is also an insightful journey into the soul and mind of the new age, modern Indian. The average audience has been of late coming more and more in contact with this personality (Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, the Hindi film released last year was one such occasion). To break oneself off from the routine and the mundane and explore the world in one’s own way has been an idea that seems to have picked up fast and is so ‘in’. Marking a break from the established norms and conventions, the new age young man is willing to exoticise the ‘everyday’ more than ever. Hunting for moments in life that can be necessarily metamorphosed into occasions for laughter, witty analysis and ultimately a written book/blog post/diary entry seems to be the newly found pastime.
The book opens with a striking comment about the ubiquity of tea stalls in India. Un-arguably the most popular hot beverage of the country- tea has been rightly selected by the author to serve as the binding thread of the lovely stories he sets out to tell. However there is nothing more about tea per se in the book other than harping on the fact that tea is prepared variously in various parts of the country, that “a lot can happen over a cup of tea” and that a hot cup of tea can be really a source of rejuvenation and energy in the hour of fatigue. That’s almost all about tea that the book has to say. A reader who expects a fascinating and fresh account of the beverage or its stalls is likely to be disappointed. Kashinath Singh’s Hindi novel Kaashi Ka Assi is the novel I recommend in that case!
Mehta’s descriptions and his skilfully crafted narrative are a delight in as far as his language is concerned. Coming to the events and situations presented in the book, the reader would be reminded of the 1970s era of Hindi cinema (specially while reading the stories from the mountains) when “scenes from the hills” became a rage . Remember Shammi Kapoor randomly deciding to go to Kashmir and singing a song in the hills and meeting the Punjabi Kashmiri tourists on the way- I think we have seen it all. Most stories that Mehta tells are so predictable. They are also short enough to make sure that none of the people we meet in the book stay with us after the book has been closed. If not rampant, stereotyping is something that the author has resorted to throughout the book.
Mehta does bring in moments which enthrall and captivate. These are few and shorter than the long, prosaic and clichéd sections (the one about his bullet motorcycle for instance was a lot of effort reading for me).
Hot Tea Across India is likely to interest someone who is new to India and wants to know about some of the easily observable incidents and people while travelling through its length and breadth. A deeper, lengthier and slightly heavier account of things, places and people could have definitely made this book better!
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