India / learning

Plain Tea: Author’s Note

The following is an assignment for my English class. Our task was to create a story using similar writing style to the novel A Passage to India by E. M. Foster.

Plain Tea

S. B. Morris

In a peculiar and miniscule teashop unseeingly plopped in a village behind men frying dosas and chapatti Lillian tapped. She tapped her foot against the dirt floor and tapped her fingers on the table partly smothered by a thin layer of coconut curry. It was a desperate attempt to calm the nerves. She felt as though she had as many eyes on her as there were leaves on a tree. The waiter was becoming impatient with her consistent contemplating of the ripped-cardstock menu, and often left her table mid-sentence to serve other customers who spoke much faster than she did. Just as she looked down to check her watch, her companion, came back from who knows where, and sat across from her. He was a handsome man who appeared intimidating at first impression.

“So sorry I am late, but what can I say?”

Lillian murmured a few polite nothings along the lines of “It’s okay” and “I understand as she was fumbling with her hair, which had become quite sticky from the humidity. It was normal for Samuel to be late. She accepted this fact a long time ago, and honestly should have expected it, but sometimes it still got on her nerves that if the tables were turned and she was the one that sauntered in late he would bark at her like an angry stray.

Samuel glanced across the tearoom, eyes full of concern. It was not what he expected a tearoom to look like, and a small pang of guilt hit him as his eyes reached Lillian’s. The obvious discomfort and misery her vibes were radiating hit him harder than a backhand. It was his job to make this place seem like the best place to be in the world though. Lillian did not have to be here, well from the perspective of Samuel of course.

She has a nice family back home and is quite intelligent for her age; she would surely do well anywhere she would go. When it comes to my journey, she is replaceable. Samuel told himself to block the fear of losing her. He would never admit it, but he needed Lillian as much as Lillian needed him.

In a desperate attempt to get a feel for what mood Samuel was in, for his moods changed at a whim and were quite rash at times, Lillian stopped her tapping long enough to take a deep breath and venture into the unknown waters that were Samuel.

“Would you like some tea? They recommend it with milk and sugar, it is apart of their culture I guess, but we have to order fast. They don’t like to be kept waiting.”

Lillian watched Samuel curiously as he pondered his options, becoming more anxious with every second passing.

“I would like my tea without milk and sugar, but you should try it with—immersion is why we are here isn’t it?”

“Well yes I suppose,” Lillian murmured, wondering what she did wrong and how to improve. She loved Samuel and the adventures they shared, the friends she had made through his connections, the in depth conversations she had never before contemplated, but she could not help but feel inferior to him.

When she was with Samuel, she never felt more at home, and her home (the place she spent her childhood) seemed to become simply an old memory fading further away with each day she spent with Samuel. Lillian would never admit this to Samuel, but often thought about how at times she felt quite homeless. Not living-on-the-streets-in-a-broken-cardboard-box homeless, but the kind of homeless that came when emotionally she did not know which way to turn.

The duo often went through rough patches. Samuel would go through mood swings and would not talk to her or when he simply demanded more, and Lillian admitted that she would be the catalyst of the argument. She would make snide comments or do something to make a point, but Samuel just saw this as immature. Lillian saw it as fending for herself, a skill she thought he would encourage.

At the end of the day Lillian was still convinced most of their arguments began because she would give everything she possibly could, and he expected more.

Plunk! The tea splashed onto the table, mixing with the crusted curry and creating an undesirable color.

Wiping away the puke-look-alike from the rickety table before Samuel would notice, Lillian knew this was the time to start the conversation if it was to happen.

“So, Samuel, could I ask you something, or rather discuss a request?”

“Okay,” he answered, gingerly sipping his plain tea, Lillian’s rage already rising from his apparent indifferent attitude.

“Well I was wondering as to why you wanted to meet me here? I mean, out of all the places we could have gone-” no he is going to think you are ungrateful! “-not that this place doesn’t have potential-” better, but don’t make it out to be something that it’s not  “-well I suppose I was just curious because the rules we must abide to are so very different from the words you preach. What about ‘express yourself’ or ‘say what you want?’ I feel very censored in this environment…”

The pang of guilt returned to Samuel’ heart. This was not what he had expected either, in all honesty, but what could he say to Lillian? You’re completely right. I don’t like it here either, but this was our only option.

After another moment and a half of awkward eye contact he came up with, “Life is kind of like a map. You are offered different paths, and you have to make difficult choices sometimes, two roads diverged in a yellow wood, no?”

“Well, I see where you are coming from, but I don’t know if I agree that taking the road less traveled by is always the better option. You ask me to practice higher level thinking and to practice my decision making, so wouldn’t it make the most sense to take the most efficient path? Why take the rough one? Yes, it might make us better people at the end, but in reality shouldn’t we practice our decision making skills based upon the best conditions possible? If I was stranded in the woods why would I choose to climb a dangerous cliff, when I could climb up the hill right beside it?”

My own creation will be the death of me- “Well, um, yes but this is what we have so you are going to have to deal.” I can’t believe she is speaking to me in that tone. Yes, we should treat each other as equals, but I make the final decision.


“Why? What do you mean ‘why?’”

“Why should we just ‘deal?’ Why don’t we do something about it?”

Look I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, there isn’t anything I can do. I know this environment is not   ideal, but just immerse yourself. Maybe you should reflect on this experience and learn more about yourself,” Samuel responded as if it was the end of the debate and then sipped his milk-less and sugar-less tea.

Author’s Note

S. B. Morris

Symbolism is a useful tool in literature. It broadens our perspectives when used appropriately and opens our minds to be more accepting. In the novel Plain Tea, symbolism is the tea, the base, the whole story. Using characters to represent groups of people is an efficient and well-mannered way to express the views of a unit without singling any one member out in particular. To keep identities confidential, and to allow this story to be comprehended and related to by people all over, I will not reveal the groups represented by either Lillian or Samuel. That conclusion is up to the readers’ digression.

The main setting of Plain Tea is, without surprise, in a teashop. However, it embodies any undesirable location. Sunshine, cleanliness, friendly wait-staff/customers, and an overall pleasant vibe would in no way describe the teashop; in fact, it is quite the opposite if you can imagine.

Neither Lillian nor Samuel wish to spend their time here, but unfortunately must. Plain Tea gives thoughts of each person in order to give the reader a better idea of what is going on during their teatime conversations. Similar to real life situations, it is impossible to know everything; therefore, neither character fully reveals their thoughts. Third-person-omniscient writing style is taken advantage of so all readers can connect to the story, and analyze however they so wish.

Another important symbol that must be recognized is the tea itself. Lillian expresses the importance to the culture of the teashop that in most cases tea is made with milk and sugar. Samuel then ignores this important bit of knowledge and continues to request his familiar milk-less and sugar-less tea. This act symbolizes multiple events. However, I will not go into further detail, as I may just influence your perspective in a way that would ruin the point for the above unrevealed secrets.

Life holds many opportunities for symbolism, and we interoperate these in any and all ways. Our perspectives greatly influence how we comprehend these symbols. I am hoping readers will take Plain Tea and further their perspectives by thinking outside of their own perspective. With others’ perspectives in mind, we may just be able to become a more understanding and compassionate world.


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