Long before I learnt what the seven wonders of the world were, I remember marveling at what I was sure would be the biggest wonder of the world: how could Mom balance two big tea cups, filled to the brim, and walk all the way from the kitchen to the front porch where Pop would be waiting for her, without spilling a single drop of tea on the way? I was four at the time, and when my parents were not there at home, I would try the trick on my own, filling the two cups full with water, carrying them and trying to walk. Problem was, I could never watch both cups at the same time. The moment I'd take my eyes off one of them, water would spill out. Stupid water, I remember thinking at the time. I kept on trying until I was seven years old. Now that I'm much older and wiser, I see how silly I was. I should've realized it's probably just a woman thing.

Millions of people all over the world begin their day with a cup of tea. India, China, Great Britain, Russia: each of these civilizations has developed and perfected a unique flavor of the art of teamaking. The famous author and essayist, George Orwell, wrote in 1946 that tea was "one of the mainstays of civilization." In his essay, "A Nice Cup of Tea," he mentions his fondness for Indian tea. He compares it with Chinese and Russian tea, and concludes, "Anyone who has used that comforting phrase `a nice cup of tea' invariably means Indian tea."

In the Weekend Thoughts column for this weekend, Debabrata "Debu" Panda provides an interesting insight into his perennial struggle to quit tea. His labored, and often enterprising, endeavors have been delightfully outlined in this piece.

This weekend, when you sip your early morning tea, spend a few moments pondering, "Would Debu Panda have resisted his urge to have tea this weekend?" I realize it's not the most philosophical way to spend our time, but then, if George Orwell thinks that tea is one of the mainstays of civilization, who are we to disagree?


Amitabh Mishra August 2, 1996

Contributor's Self-Introduction

Hello! "Mu Debu Panda, maane Debabrata Panda Kahuchhi. Beaverton, Oregon ru Kahuchhi ?" Oh, you don't recognize me ? Let me introduce myself. I am the eldest son of Mr. Ganga Narayan Panda and Mrs. Ratnamani Patjoshi - Panda of Jharsuguda. I had my Bachelor's degree in Physics (Hons) from Laxminarayan College, Jharsuguda (1988) and my MCA degree from R.E.C, Rourkela (1992).

"Kana ajna profession pacharuchhanti ?" I have been working as a software consultant since 1992. I was in the UK for about one and half years before I came here to work for an American subsidiary of a British software consultancy company.

Ajna, "baha, saha hei nahin." Still a strict Hanuman Bhakta!

"Ajna Mor Ruchi (hobbies) gote nuhen aneka!" My hobbies include : Poems, Essays, Music and COOKING (Sounds quite odd for a male Oriya ??) . I always liked to participate in debates and present cultural programes on stage and AIR and produce/act in plays in the past. So to say I am "a jack of ALL TRADES but master of NONE!"

Ajna bahut chatili, bore hei jai thibeni rahili?

Mo GHARA phone number lekhi rakhantu: 1-503-629 9126

E-MAIL hela debu@usa.net (currently deactivated!)


Not the Last Cup of Tea

My friend said, "You have surpassed all limits," and I nodded "yes" while sipping my 12th cup of tea of the day. It was probably early April, 1992, and we were in a 2nd class reserved compartment of Utkal express on our return journey to Rourkela after our project work in Delhi. The train was definitely hot, but not hotter than my cup of tea. I always enjoyed the warmth of a cup of tea, whatever be the temperature of the scorching summer, whatever be the ratio of milk, water, sugar, or tea. More or less an addiction, not lesser than any kind of drugs!

"How can you drink a cup of tea at 2.30pm on a summer afternoon ?"

"See how I am sipping? That's the way I drink. Tea has become a part of my life!"

"Don't you know excessive tea is bad for health? It reduces one's appetite!"

"I know, but do you know that tea prevents tooth cancer?"

"But if you continue drinking tea at such a rate then you will cease to exist! Do you know how much your weight has reduced in last six months ?"

"I know, only 5 kilos. It reduced not because of tea but due to the VERY GOOD (??) food I was getting at Delhi!" I asked, "Do you know that I didn't have a proper dinner for last two months? I am sick of eating in restaurants in Delhi. I was termed a voracious eater by my family members and friends six months back; now I can't even eat two chapattis properly, and my appetite has reduced a lot."

"You are just blabbering, giving stupid excuses! The only reason for your reduction of appetite is the alarming increase in tea."

"May be, if you think so," I replied casually, and commanded the Chaywala who was passing by, "Bhai teen cup chay dena ?" I then shouted at my other friend, who was taking a siesta, to get up and have a cup of tea. None of them agreed to provide me company, so I had my 13th cup of tea alone.

"You are no longer a school child! Why not try to change yourself a little bit?" my friend commented.

"I drink a few cups of tea, not bottles of alcohol," I remarked jokingly. "See, I am a vegetarian, I don't drink alcohol, I don't smoke, I don't womanize. I am a nice guy, I am not a bad student, I am a good artist, too! How can anyone expect more from me?" Smoking, drinking and womanizing are considered vices in our culture, needless to say.

My friend was annoyed. "You go to hell - I don't have anything to say. You always boast of your will power, but you don't have any will power at all."

"You are challenging my will power," I said.

"Yes, I am. I repeat my statement that you don't have a pinch of will power. Otherwise, you could have controlled your craving for tea."

"This is my last cup of Tea." I was hurt that someone challenged my will power.

"Last cup of tea for life, day or hour?? I have seen my Papa quitting cigarettes atleast 10 or 12 times!"

I replied with vigour, "The last cup of tea in my life," and sipped the cup of tea and thoroughly enjoyed the cup of tea with relish and with a thought "Can I really give up tea?" Obviously that was the last cup of tea of th hour, day, week, month or year, but not of life.

I reached R.E.C. hostel in the evening and then we went to backpost. Everybody had tea and I had only a bon chop (a bon filled with a smashed ALU CHOP, very famous among Recongilans) and none of my friends noticed that I didn't have tea that evening. I can't express how I controlled myself that evening and the hours that passed. I had pain in my stomach and chest whenever approached the time for tea. I realized how painful it would be for drug addicts to give up drugs!! The next day my good friend found me with a Fruti in the college canteen instead of tea and was shocked. When I returned home, my parents were amazed that I'd given up tea but they remarked that there was no harm in taking two cups of tea a day . A green signal to start drinking tea again.

I completely gave up tea and returned to Delhi for work. After a few months I found my old appetite for food back. I started gaining weight constantly. Now I have achieved such a size and figure, I don't know whether my friend will be able to recognize me in the first instance. I stopped drinking tea for more than two years. I left India for the UK and then came to the USA. In the meantime I don't remember how and when I started drinking tea again. But not 15 times a day as I used to drink!! I generally drink tea once every day on the weekends and think of my promise that I made "This is my last cup tea." I feel guilty for not keeping the promise. But I am thankful to my good old friend whose challenge was instrumental in forcing me to give up tea. But I still feel "Do I have a strong will power?" If yes, why did I start drinking tea again? If not, how could I manage to stop drinking tea ? Whenever I drink a cup of tea, I remember my promise but I console myself, "This is not my last cup tea ..."

The weekend is approaching again and it's time for good brewed tea imported from India and a confession that I cannot give up tea for life. Sorry my dear friend, you are right - I don't have a strong will power. You won the bet and I will treat you with "a cup of tea..." whenever and wherever we meet next!!

Your comments are always welcome...

Debu Panda
Debabrata Panda

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