Hot Tea Across India by Rishad Saam Mehta is probably one of the best travelogues that one can come across. He writes with great detail and portrays images in a resplendent manner with his writing. In this book, Mehta has conjured every detail of his journey which is filled with new experiences and new people. This book is sure to take you on a ride but there’s just a small difference – you’d feel richer by reading about all those experiences.
This is a delightfully lighthearted novel about an avid traveler, who speaks of his journeys across the country and gives due credit to the entities which contribute to everlasting memories by emphasizing the most on our country’s tea or chai, available at almost every lane and corner of any city. It is all about the author’s obsession of exploring every nook and corner of the city he travels to while not forgetting that one sip of hot chai. This chai acts as the bribe. It helps him make friends along the way, gets him out of the weirdest and irksome situations he faces or makes him familiar with the kindhearted and faithful expression of a person consoling and comforting him on a stormy afternoon.
Each chapter is catchy, interesting and calls for attention. He carefully describes the taste of different falvours of chai which boost his confidence and his determination to explore and travel more. The fact that every incident he prints in this book is true and not fictional makes it much more interesting and worth reading. This book is more of a challenge as one would notice the writer travelling to those places and in such conditions that only travel enthusiasts would enjoy being in. It is a marvel how that one common thread, the chai, can start a hundred conversations and adventures thus making itself the essence of this book. Across the length and breadth of India, there is no place where Mehta remains unsuccessful in tracing a lone tea stall – whether it be on a highway or in the remotest hilly regions of the Himalayas or Leh.
Each chapter has its own unique story and experience. The writing is simple and interesting – easy to understand as well as worth appreciating especially when he describes the scenery of the breathtaking Himalayan ranges and the dangerous ghats of Leh. All the technical and mechanical details that Mehta portrays, for once, are not that difficult to understand, contradicting the usual complexity of such information. Trust me on one this – you will envy him for all the beautiful locations he has visited. His observation skills will astound you – a fact that can clearly be seen in the way he describes the people and regions around him.
Probably a little more description and inclusion of his friends would have made the book diverse in experiences and emotions. This book surely didn’t do much of justice to Mehta’s friends, as I felt their experiences were somewhat sidelined except for barely in a few chapters of the book.
All and all, a very well written travelogue. It sticks to its title and for those interested in travel; this is probably that one book out of many which they would be enchanted by. And for those who are not, it doesn’t really matter because it is a perfect way to spend a few hours. It is fresh, captivating, and highly recommended for people who want to read something different and distinct from the fiction we usually read.