February 17, 2010

Tea and Little Bee

"Tea is the taste of my land: it is bitter and warm, strong, and sharp with memory. It tastes of longing. It tastes of the distance between where you are and where you come from. Also it vanishes--the taste of it vanishes from your tongue while your lips are still hot from the cup. It disappears, like plantations stretching up into the mist. I have heard that your country drinks more tea than any other. How sad that must make you--like children who long for absent mothers. I am sorry."
--Little Bee, Chris Cleave 
An interesting take on tea, for whenever someone tells me he or she is settling down with a cup of piping hot tea, I can think of no greater pleasure -- and I sheepishly find myself feeling jealous if I cannot have some, too. For it sounds like such a luxury, doesn't it? To steep a pot of tea for oneself, at one's leisure. This, I think, is a freedom and privilege. But Little Bee reminds me that not everyone thinks the same. Sometimes our most pleasurable activities or foods can be corrupted, or embittered, if you will.

After the first sentence (Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl...), I was hooked, but then my interest waned. And then, miraculously, it rose again -- in the end, I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. Funny when that happens. The author is a British journalist; his colleague, Charlie Brooker, is one of my favorite columnists. The Guardian is fortunate to have them both.

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