Healy Pass and a thermos full of Indian tea

In March this year, we had the opportunity to drive through the Healy Pass. Often described as one of Ireland’s greatest drives, this is a mountain pass that snakes its way through some breath-taking views at an elevation of about 334 meters. We were holidaying in West Cork, and the Healy Pass is located in the Beara Peninsula, in the Caha mountain range of south west Ireland. It straddles the Cork and Kerry border.

But what is perhaps Ireland’s best drives is also a reminder to a very sad past. Built in 1847, it was a product of the Great Famine. It was one of the projects meant to provide a source of income and employment for those who had suffered losses because of the failure of the potato crop in 1845. But there was bad management, and tons of problems and many workers died by the side of the roads, whilst they working on the project…They died away from their family, in the midst of bad weather, and because of malnutrition. If you think of it, it is heart breaking in every sense of the word.

If I were being honest, these thoughts were far from my mind when we took the drive along with our friends – Vickram, Rekha and Dia, who were in a separate car. We were excited at the prospect of taking this route, and whilst it was overcast and windy, it hadn’t rained as yet.

There were barely any other cars ahead of, or behind us, and it looked like we had the surreal landscape all to ourselves. Besides, in our car, I was holding on to a very precious commodity.

My little thermos full of Indian chai. I brew my chai the traditional Indian way. Loose tea leaves, water, sugar, and milk. Sometimes I add a bit of ginger, cardamom or fennel. In India, I used to add fresh lemongrass and tulsi (Indian basil) leaves. My tea tastes sweet, and sharp, and it wakes me up, and often feels like a warm embrace.

Since we were renting a cottage, and my husband knew just how much I loved my morning cup of tea, he had taken along tea leaves (the Wagh Bakri brand that I’ve stayed faithful to since a decade now), the thermos, and also a container to make tea. But he forgot one essential component – the sieve to drain the tea.

But on this particular morning, he had resorted to jugaad. Jugaad, explained aptly by BBC Culture as “That idea of patching something together in a very makeshift way to get a result you want is common in India. And there’s one word in Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi that sums it up: jugaad.”

My husband took the hand press coffee filter and used it as an effective sieve. My chai was ready. And he very thoughtfully made extra, so that I could carry it in my little thermos.

Now, coming back to Healy Pass, once we were near the Glenmore Lake view point, we got out of the car to take some pictures.

The wind was howling by then, in a bad mood and very surly. It licked our napes, ran through our hair, and at one point seemed so upset that it threatened to blow us away. We were still in a good mood though.

And suddenly, I thought of my chai.

Vickram, I said, to our friend and fellow tea lover, should we share a cup of tea?

You have tea?

Yes, I said. Nandan filled up the flask for us.

Oh wow, he said, his eyes lighting up at the prospect of Indian chai.

And think about it, I said. How many times in our lives can we boast of having chai at a location and a view like this?

He grinned.

We both sat down on the ledge of a bridge and I poured out the tea. The wind was angry still and I had to be very careful because it wanted to blow my tea away too.

In the midst of all that wind, surreal, other worldly beauty, we sat down and had tea that was still piping hot, and comforting.

My husband, Vickram’s wife, and daughter couldn’t believe it. Here was a wind that was growing angrier by the moment, and here were two chai lovers who were sitting down precariously on the edge of a bridge, and taking grateful little sips of the steaming hot drink…

You can see a woman (me) in a purple coat and warm fleece lined tights and hiking boots. Next to me is a man - our friend Vickram. We are sitting on the ledge of a bridge, and I hold the flask, and he holds the cup/lid and we are both grinning. My hair is all swept up in the wind.
Two chai lovers having their favourite brew at a location that they would remember for ever!

One thought on “Healy Pass and a thermos full of Indian tea

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.