India, Fall 2012
While on holiday in the Himalayas, we spent a few days in Dharamshala, home of the Tibetan government in exile. It was mountainous, quiet, and beautiful, and it evoked a sense of isolation, as if you were cut off from the rest of the world. I was thrilled to be there, soaking in the sun and the incredible views, but I was extremely sick and my body wasn’t reacting well to the cold. I thought it was simply a case of changing temperatures (hot sunny Pune to chilly mountainous hilltown), but I actually had dengue fever at the time… Surprise! Long story, but I wouldn’t know I had it until about a week later when we returned home to the city.
While in Dharamshala, we met a few young men, two brothers from Kashmir who ran a fur goods stall in the market. Seeing that I was sick, and as a general gesture of hospitality, the youngest brother invited us in for a cup of homemade honey lemon ginger tea. In addition to the giant yak shawl that I purchased to keep myself warm, that tea was a great comfort for me when I felt like I was dying (literally) in the mountains, far away from home.
If I could describe my overall travel experiences in one word it would be hospitality. This young man, a perfect stranger, had us make ourselves at home in his fur shop (slippers, hats, coats, gloves, etc. all made of real sheepskin and fur) while he left to make us tea. He came back with a cup of tea for each of us, and we had a nice long chat while we enjoyed the warmth.
Perhaps I became emotionally attached to this tea or feel a sense of nostalgia when I drink it, but to this day honey lemon ginger tea makes me feel safe, warm, and comfortable. In their culture, it is considered a cure-all, the tea your grandmother gives you when you’re unwell. Who knows how much it really improved my health, but it made me feel better at the time. Thank you to my Kashmiri friends for your hospitality.