Friday, June 29, 2007

Tea Ceremony!

When ever I hear the word "tea" , there is an incident that comes flashing to my mind, and the thought of it makes me smile. Let me narrate it to you.

It was a very busy day. My father was ironing my costumes for the day, my mother hurrying over the eleventh hour preparation of the lec-dem she was about to deliver, and I was busy in front of the mirror , dressing up for the dance performance. My brother had to shoulder the responsibility of tidying up and give an appealing touch to our front room , for we were expecting a guest. He would be here any moment. He r he would have secretly appreciated the tea making abilities of his school going son.

Meanwhile Amma was ready and rushed to the kitchen to get a sip of the remaining hot tea, for she was having sore throat. I could see her gargling intermittently in the morning with hot salt water. She had to give a long lecture in front of a crowd ,
and she always relied on home remedies.As soon as I saw her taking her sip of the tea, she involuntarily spat it into the kitchen sink, her face filled with a strange expression, something nearing the "bheebhalsa rasa" ! I ran to her, worried
witnessing her strange behavior.
Amma was shouting at my brother, "Did you serve this tea to our guest ?". My brother nodded a yes .
"You made tea with the water I had heated up for gargling! It was loaded with salt , Oh! my GOD! how could we serve it to our guest? " she gasped.
His asking for water and his strange inquiries regarding tea drinking in our community did have a meaning! He had courteously finished his salt ginger tea , suppressing his natural facial expressions.
When my mother explained to him what had happened and mumbled her apologies he just replied, " I'll never forget this meeting!"

This was an incident which took place nearly 15 years ago. But how could one forget such an incident.
I wondered what tea I would be served,as I was on my way to Kajiyoshi San's house. I was invited by this gentleman,whom I greatly admired, to his house for a tea ceremony.Tea ceremony was an entirely new experience for me.

Kajiyoshi San and his wife Sadami San , welcomed me to their house , which reflected their aesthetic sense and love for Nature. As soon as I entered their house Sadami San directed me to a small water fountain they had fixed at their entrance where I was asked to wash my hands and face with a bamboo laddle.The cool flowing water was energizing and revitalizing. I was directed to a room which was sparsely furnished , but had something in it to elevate one's spirits.The room was a tatami room, the floor spread with reed mats.

There was antique pottery and unique calligraphy,and a humbleness and simplicity about the whole ambiance.


The tea ceremony first began in Buddhist monasteries and was known for its medicinal values.The monks had the tea made of bitter powdered tea leaves to keep themselves awake during meditation.The coming of Zen Buddhism , made it more popular. It was called " Chado or Sado".This tea ceremony lasted for 4 hours.The host would go through the detailed preparation of tea , giving emphasis to each an every movement. There was a perfect unison of the body , mind and spirit during this ceremony.It reflected Japanese spiritual tradition and culture.The guests will be first served a sweet, which should be eaten sitting in "vajrasana" on the tatami mat.Then the guest will be served the first serving of thick brewed tea.There are rules to be followed here too. The guest lifts up the fine work of pottery which holds the tea ,asking permission from the person seated at his left , whether he can have it.Carefully turning the front of the bowl , to face him he can sip the tea.He should now wipe the place where he had sipped with the small finger of his right hand. Then placing the bowl in front , now the bowl facing away from him, with his elbows on the knees one should appreciate the art work on the pottery.The bowl now is passed to the person sitting on the left.The second serving is a dilute version of the tea.The whole process is like a meditation which flows in a very soothing and slow motion.It is practiced as an entertainment for spiritual upliftment.It is a process where you are taught to think of others first.I went through this whole process , thoroughly enjoying every moment.At the end of four hours I was feeling lighter and purged.
I am grateful to Kajiyoshi San and his wife Sadami San for giving this taste of Japanese culture .
I too mumbled the words with a bow as I said oyasu minasai (good night) to my friends," I'll never forget this meeting!"......

8 comments:

A Little Light said...

ur post made me feel like i was there!!

MyVision said...

it's an amazing narration of two incidents related to T...
i can imagine the expressions of your amma, brother and father...when all of you realized what was offered to the guest... yes, i missed the real-life bhebhatsa bhava...
Its the first time that i am reading about tea ceremony... yes, japanese have rich culture and even in these days they are so proud of their culture... which is very different from the scene in India, where these days many people make fun of or sarcastic about some of the cultural values and traditions...
waiting for your next dose...

Jyothsna said...

Salt in the tea...my hubby too made some salty tea once and never ventured to make tea again! :) Interesting to read about the tea ceremony.

Maddy said...

there was a time when i admired the jap culture. i read all kinds of books (james clavell mainly), then i saw quite a bit of 'oshin' and loved it. never could find those in english since then. but then i saw that the new generation out there cares not for all the good things of their past and i wondered, why? why was the good not propogated to the new generations?

Paul said...

My sister and I once visited an immigrant family that had only been in the states a year or so. We were served Orangejade (do they still make that?) - that really sticky kind of fake orange juice - with generous servings of cake that had that really thick and super sweet kind of white frosting you often see on birthday cakes.

I think they thought they were serving us the kind of food Americans like! Such really wonderful and kind people though, and survivors of the Cambodian "killing fields" under the Khmer Rouge - this was in the early eighties. The bad food was given with such an abundance of hospitality and good will that we both remember it in a strange way as one of the better meals we've eaten!

Mishmash ! said...

Nandu, I have seen and read a lot about Tea ceremony..and ur write up captured the essence....Memoirs of Geisha and as maddy wrote, Oshin always come first when we think of such scenarios...and the first anecdote , hehhe..that was quite funny though it must have been a real embarrassing moment :)

Shn

SG said...

I have read a lot about tea ceremony in "Memoirs of Geisha". Great to know that you had a good experience in one.

Srivalli said...

very nice post...

srivalli
www.cooking4allseasons.blogspot.com