I vividly recall the day when we were returning after getting admitted in the English Department, Tribhuvan University. On the way, I noticed a group of youths talking academic stuff while slowly sipping their tea.
I asked my sister, “Is this a library?” She answered mockingly, “No, it’s a tea shop.” That really amazed me. That was my first day in Kirtipur, and I was not aware that the local residences had capitalised on their small free spaces to convert them into tea shops.
Slowly, I came to understand all about the place where the diplomacy of tea culture has been practised by the shop owners, and, unknowingly, even Tribhuvan University has played an important role in fostering it. Because of TU, this place remains occupied with students.
The tea shop owners employ a unique strategy to attract their customers. They are experts at reading the psychology of the students. Some of the shops offer a cup of tea with milk for just 10 rupees. This, probably, is the cheapest you can get in entire Kathmandu. They also provide a variety of magazines, newspapers and reading materials featuring the Public Service Commission. The purpose behind this academic facilitation is to offer tea at a reduced margin and make a profit while the students munch their snacks.
The tea shops around the university area are synonymous with a knowledge production house. These shops have become popular platforms for academic discussion and intellectual dialogue. Mostly the students who strive for knowledge and want to enhance it through group discussion are regular visitors of the tea shops. When students get bored of the monotonous lectures, they often visit the tea shops during the break for some lively and refreshing discussion.
From an educational point of view, it is good that the students are getting habituated to intellectual discussion because of the tea culture. Regardless of the health drawbacks, the tea culture is thriving among the thousands of university students.
The article entitled ‘Tea Drinker’s Disease’, published in the journal Scientific American, claims that the habit of tea drinking is one that grows on its victims similar to the one of opium or alcohol. No doubt, the tannin element in tea does harm to our health like slow poison. Nearly all students are probably aware of this, but they don’t pay much heed to it. That’s the beauty of the culture - even when it has drawbacks, people can’t get rid of it.