Postmodern understanding of today’s tea tourism

In popular South Indian cinema and politics, Rajanayagam (2015) identifies how the culturally symbolic tea is used to show the rural socio-political system, the tea stall is an important center, a melting pot, a meeting point, where collective opinions are formed and relationships shared. The tea-stall is not merely a point of buying and selling, but a door to the village and a window to the world (Rajanayagam 2015). Hence, the way tea can be linked to tourism is how tourism can manage this symbolic connection between local and global, and furthermore how hosts and guests meet in the shadow of colonial past to revitalize cultural heritage.

Incorporating tea into commercial advertising was not always so successful. Lutgendorf (2012) finds that the replication of tea advextisements used in England for the Indians failed drastically, as shown in a 1911 newspaper that “celebrated tea as a natural product of a colonized and tamed ‘jungle’, raised in geometrically arrayed and manicured ‘gardens’ and picked by dark-skinned, subaltern women, who offered it at a gleaming white table to equally white consumers; a tidy ‘factory’ building in the background, lit by the rising sun of colonial-era progress, merely hinted at the complex and increasingly mechanized intermediary process involved in actual tea manufacture” (Lutgendorf 2012:13-14).

As early as the 1930s, an intense campaign of tea selling and advertising was implemented via “Mobile tea stalls ... stationed in vantage points in bazars and streets” (Neville 2006). Later, tea advertisement became the center of the “buy and sell game”. Tea commercials could be seen in various visages. In an advertisement posted in Jungatar, Kolkata in 1939, the ad stated “Anyone can have Indian tea which is the pride and pleasure of India” (Ray 2009:60). This pride and pleasure of India, refers to the extensive spectrum of the Indian population, where by charging 1 paisa, people would be able to enjoy buying it cheaply (Ray 2009).

In the 1930s, ads were also targeting health symbolism, such as “Chhelemeyeder Swasthyer Dayitwa Apnari” (“You alone are responsible for the well-being of your children/your children’s health depends on you”) (Ray 2009). Aimed at homemakers, tea was advertised as an essential drink to the youth and as an essential commodity in the household. Neville (2006) states the swiftness of tea’s magnetism “usually taken in place of milk during illness on medical advice” (2006:128). Roshan (2012) strengthens the health symbolism through the multiple use of cartoons in these advertisements, such as “A yawn at dawn” and “Tea is essential for avoiding daily trouble” illustrating an Indian man waking up with a cup of tea displaying his healthy lifestyle (2012:464—465).

Following commercial ads, India’s film industries, such as Bollywood and Tollywood, also contribute to the globalization of the symbolic unity of Indians through a single beverage. Throughout the various films, there seems be a common presence of chai wallahs (tea sellers) and/or just the consumption of tea. This reflected even in noteworthy songs and dances that Indian cinema is known for (Roshan 2012).

Bhadra (2005) even discusses with the significance of a “teacup serves as a detail, its necessity depending on the choice of the viewer” (2005:40). As in the case of literature, the film industry began adopting “tea with a stereotypical affective meaning” such as the film Chao Paoa (Bhadra 2005). The film displayed a scene of couples, chatting over a cup of tea, as it was a normal social convention to gather with a cup of tea. Bhadra (2005) exemplifies that “tea drinking as a meaningful image was transferred from literature to film without any alteration in its signification” (2005:41). This can be found apparent with the iconic Raj Kapoor sharing a cup of tea with Nargis in the movie Shi ее 420 produced in 1955 (YouTube 2012), an iconic movie of its time, or even humorously with Aamir and Salman Khan sharing a single “cup of chai” in the film Andaz Apna Apna (1994). Produced in 1994, its most noteworthy scene was its witty one-liners around a cup of tea.

As a result, tea tourism has increased in India as well. This is mainly due to the use of remote hill stations and tea plantations in Indian film, particularly in areas like Darjeeling. It has been a prominent filming destination for Indian filmmakers. Well-known Bollywood movies like Aradhana, Mausam, Barfi and Via Darjeeling were often filmed in Darjeeling, and through this, popular songs like Main Chali Main Chali and Dil Hai Mera Deewana encouraged youths, regardless of class, to search for those tea plantations during their vacations (Das 2014).

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