Chai For Beginners
By Jane Ainslie
Sita Sinclair’s life is falling apart – she is dumped by her boyfriend (Mark) and also lost her job – thanks to Mark again. He was a client of the ad agency where she worked, and on leaving her (for another “cow”) he managed to get the agency “let go” of Sita – to avoid awkward situations/meetings.
Life in Sydney (Australia) is not the same for this twenty-seven year old. She manages to get herself a new job at Duncan & Associates Direct Marketing Agency and of course very nice new colleagues – Gerome and the handsome art director from Scotland, her new love. Gerome helps Sita find a new house at Glebe Point Road. The apartment is everything anyone could ever dream of. Fully equipped, spacious and serene. Sita ends up meeting her next door neighbor – Mrs. Sharma, an Indian.
Their friendship develops over cups of Indian “chai” (tea) and before long they become good pals talking about India, its customs and its vibrancy. Mrs. Sharma’s kids, now settled in different parts of Australia, seldom visit her or pay attention to her wishes. But in Sita she finds a companion. And Sita too begins to learn about her namesake in The Ramayana, the different parts of India and much more.
Mrs. Sharma and Sita plan a trip to India together but Mrs. Sharma dies of a heart attack a bit before they embark on their journey. And as she lay on her death bed –she entrusts Sita (and not her children) with the task of taking her ashes to India and putting them in the flowing Ganges.
Sita is bound by her promise and considers it her duty to fulfill Mrs. Sharma’s last wish. Though very scared of traveling alone and very skeptical about India and Indians in general, Sita finally flies off to Delhi with all her essential “life-saving” necessities, courtesy Gerome and Lawrence; and of course the motivational boost by Callum.
Sita’s visit to India opens up her heart, mind and soul. Her journey and her experiences are very beautifully described. Having seen those places personally I could visualize the entire setting. And it was a lovely experience.
I also liked the part in chapter three where Sita fixes an appointment with Charlotte Clearwater, a healer and counselor. Charlotte’s insight to the theory of Karma is so easy to understand. “The law of Karma is like the law of Physics.” I remember those same exact words being told to me by a spiritual healer recently. And reading this novel re-enforced my belief and faith in my spirit guides. There is no direct connection in here – it is just that instances shared and experienced by Sita reminded me of a certain journey that helped me grow emotionally and spiritually.
The writing is crisp; the plot is unique; and the characters all feel very real. Gerome comes across as a friend that everyone should have. Ever helpful and funny. His partner Lawrence is always supportive and as helpful. Sita is like every other girl who has been in love and unable to move on (for a while) after a break-up. Her fears, worries and thoughts are relatable and so are her apprehensions towards certain places/people.
It is a moving (and fast paced) story taking the reader from Sydney to New Delhi to Varanasi to Mt Abu without any loose strings. Spanning different continents, cultures and colors, it leads to self discovery and growth of Sita’s emotional self. It focuses on her spiritual growth and helps her grow as a person and as a traveler too. The metamorphosis of the character is done with ease and precision. I’d say do give this a read. It won’t take much time and it surely will entertain you. Jane Ainslie surely captured a fine essence of India – right from the cover page till the very end.