Shahi Exports Private Limited Unit 7 has chai breaks twice a day. The first break starts promptly at 10:45am, and ends at 11:30am. The afternoon chai break begins at 3:45pm and ends at 4:30pm. In each of these time periods, the company’s staff workers head to the outdoor roof where 3 silver tins full of steaming chai and coffee will be waiting for them.
Everyone here in the office works at an unbelievable pace. They are always taking phone calls, answering emails, visiting their factories. Chai breaks seem to be the little moments of peace they can carry with them. In both American and Indian working cultures, people seem to throw themselves into their work.
But chai breaks are different. People sip from small white porcelain cups on the roof, overlooking Shahi’s bright lawns and colorful flowers, and talk amongst their friends. Some sit on the steps, side by side as they laugh and joke. Chai breaks are 10 minutes they have completely for themselves.
My India experience has been a patchwork of little moments, carefully stitched together with sights, smells, tastes, sounds, and textures. Take a chai break for example. You stand on the roof right next to the edge, elbows propped on the balcony, sun on your face and a cool breeze in your hair. You take small, slow sips from your chai cup, and luxuriate in its warmth. You breathe deeper, and slower, as you look towards the palm trees and down at the people walking below the building.
While internships may often be high-paced, high stress environments, interning in India has encouraged me to relax, and be patient. There have been moments during my trip where I have felt frustrated or defeated. Often things will not go your way or be what you expect, especially when you aren’t familiar with the language or the customs. It’s easy to get lost in that anger, but it just isn’t worth it. Things like chai breaks and the mango cart and the blooms we see on our walk to the our cafeteria provide solace. Small moments you store in your soul.
This has been illustrated time and time again through monsoon season. Monsoon rains happen throughout the country from June-September, but at anytime of day and for any length of time – they’re unpredictable. When I left for India, one of the pieces of advice my mom gave me was to just enjoy the rain. It’s pointless to wear jackets or boots or to even complain about it making your clothes wet. Instead, let the rain hit your skin and feel the water wash over your thoughts.
I love the rain: the way it smells fresh and slightly damp after, the way it patters on windows and walls, and the way it makes you feel. After a storm, the world feels renewed. Any and all annoyances wash out with the water, and you start with a clean slate.
While it hasn’t rained much in Bangalore, I remember one downpour one Sunday afternoon as I came back to our apartment from a day of sightseeing. I was aggravated by the amount of time I had spent in city traffic that day. My clothes and hair were soaking wet, and I just couldn’t stop grinning. Being caught in the rain felt like a blessing.
In India, you learn to embrace the rain and to smell the jasmine flowers. You learn to savor the sips.