Takura Chiya

What is Takura Chiya?

Takura Chiya is … well, it is many things. Technically, it is lemon tea - powdered lemon tea mixed with hot water from a Nescafe coffee machine, to be exact. But that’s not a very useful definition, is it? You could say, ‘oh, technically it is just a bunch of atoms’, and that would be true. That’s doing a disservice to the singular phenomenon that is Takura Chiya. No, no, no, lemon tea is not good enough. The rest of the matter needs to be explained.

Near the entrance of Pimbahal Pukhu:, which is this pond that is supposed to be fed by seven wells - or was it nine wells, it’s hard to remember - anyways near the entrance there is a small nook of a cafe, it’s called Chiba Cafe; despite the Japanese sounding name, it is run by Nepalis - you’ll have to go to Fuji bakery to meet people of the rising sun. Inside this tiny cafe that has doodles scrawled all over its walls, small drawings everywhere, like some preschooler snuck in one day and snorted too much coffee, haha, and in this cafe you can go and order the tea.

It comes in a paper cup, deceptively hot; some days it is filled to the brim and you spill a few drops on your fingers and it burns you, but you can’t let go, because that would make an even bigger mess; so you simply endure the warmth this misleading cup contains, similar to some people who at first glance seem dreadfully boring but have layers of depth underneath. Oh, and having people with you affects your pain, too; since if you have a friend with you, you’ll likely be carrying two of the cups and your chance of being burned just multiplied, look out. But if it’s not a one-on-one then maybe there are three of you, but more likely four or five, so you need the tray and that takes away much of the risk.

The tea tastes like lemon tea, of course, but deeper. It reminds you of Takura, which is this sherbet that you used to have in your childhood; it was meant to be diluted with water, but you liked to gulp it down neat and it gave you a kick then. But there was a distinct flavor; you had forgotten that you had forgotten this and now it came rushing in through the tea; only, it was warm now, and it kind of fit, because nostalgia is not meant to be served cold, right? So it reminds you of the past, because so few other things do, what with your shit memory and all; you get an actual sense of where you came from, more than the ‘Tree of Life’ thing you filled out on workshops where you had no problem defining what you did, wanted and cared about, but you were stumped when you needed to fill in your roots, because all of your memories were tainted and you weren’t sure how much of it was even real or simply an extrapolation done by a child’s eye.

Once you took the cup or cups outside, the location played a factor. You’ll never want to sit inside, that’s just ridiculous. The obvious spot is the duo of tables with the umbrellas and short plastic stools, there must be a dozen of those. But this place was popular, nowadays, so especially at evenings it was crowded and you needed to find other places to sit. When you were alone or had someone beside you, the footsteps of the house the cafe was in also sufficed. Sometimes you stood, but that wasn’t so bad, because you’d want to stand near the pond. But the best vantage point would be the Phalcha right next to the shop - where once you were going to sleep through the night, that time you went to a late night concert and came back to find the gates to your hostel closed and there was nowhere to go, so you had wandered here and nearly lied down, but then thought better of it, because it wasn’t heroic or a great feat but silliness to do so when an easier way was present - oh but back to the Phalcha, which they graciously provided gundris and mats for, but the bare wood was fine as well, because the ambience was so nice and it gave this beautiful view of the pond, especially after sunset when the lights turned on and reflected off the mirror-like water.

But even before the lights had been installed, it had been a wondrous place. When it looked slightly decrepit but more authentic, historical. Because with the lights came the fences - you couldn’t go to the middle after six now, and along came the crowd. A fraction of them were not so bad, more like you, content to observe from the edges, but these other tourists, what else would you call them, they swarm nowadays and really ruin the atmosphere of the place. For them it is just another scene to be in, totally immersed in themselves, you could have put them in a jail courtyard and they might not have noticed the difference, unless the ducks of the pond quacked particularly loudly. These people are never alone and like to quack, quack more than the ducks; you are reminded of Sartre and silently curse these people for turning the place hellish.

Then you sigh and catch yourself, because that type of thinking never helps now, does it? All this puritan and gatekeeping thoughts, you think they’re the main enemy, after all. So Takura Chiya is also these tangents your brain runs into, and the conversations that spring around it. Because what else do a group of like-minded people do when sitting in a circle with tea in their hands do than bitch about the state of things, and the policies the government has brought, and how the society is going to the dogs. Most of this bullshit spews forth from your own mouth, and you wonder if the tea is doing anything special to you. Maybe it is a disillusionment drug. But that’s ridiculous. And the term is an oxymoron as well. Thinking you are now disillusioned, that you have figured out what the illusion is - that in itself is a blatant illusion.

Takura Chiya is one of those illusions. But what is to say that illusions do not have an essence, a life of their own - since they do seem to exist in that we talk about them, name them, is that not enough? Who cares that they may be momentary, like the clouds of cigarette smoke that ascend from around you as you sip the tea, that linger for a while if it was raining, but then meld into air. Take your relationships, for example. How many people have you bonded over this same tea, under the watchful gaze of the pond? And how many will you forget, or worse, try to keep in touch with but utterly fail and blame yourself for being a bad, bad person. And what about you yourself, who morph and change, fall in love with the silliest things every other day and hate it the very next, is this self not transitory as well?

But Takura Chiya has changed, too. They raised the price from twenty-five rupees to thirty rupees, and it’s still quite cheap; they have a fiscal policy of keeping prices low and customer numbers high. But the fact is it changed, and you don’t mind the five extra rupees, but you are scared at what the change represents. You park left of the corner to the cafe now, when the kid that collects the parking fees is visible, not because you cannot afford the five or ten rupees, but you do it out of spite, rage against a world that just seems to spin on and on and on, never caring about your feelings. Never waiting, just a while, to let you appreciate the beauty of the moment. As the hymns from the nearby stupa ring out, every day the same ones, you think about whether such repetition was actually the smart thing to do, so that today was the same as tomorrow, so today was, in a sense, eternal.

Immortality would suck, you reflect when sitting alone at the footsteps of the cafe, tea in hand, looking outwards at nothing in particular. Things are suddenly upturned now, and you have to leave the capital owing to the lockdown. Yes, Takura Chiya is laden with meaning and magic, but what would you do, live near here, get a job that does not require travel and come here every single day, maybe twice a day with your friends to have tea, and expect that this state of things would continue on forever? No, this has to end, but that’s alright, because that means it won’t get corrupted and distorted in your mind; it will remain a bastion of belonging; it will stay here, at this point in spacetime, along with the ghosts of people you know and people you yourself were. And the cup is empty, except for the last sliver of liquid that won’t leave, but you will leave, and be thankful for the taste and the warmth.

You crumple the cup and throw it in the waste basket.

Written on 23 July 2020