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Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of my podcast. This is Owen and this is my podcast for Friday 25th May, 2018. I hope you’re all doing well. I’m doing alright, I guess. I’ve had a very hectic  month though. After my time in Hong Kong I spent a few weeks in India. First, I met up with an old friend who teaches courses on China at a university outside Delhi. We spent a weekend in Jaipur together and then I travelled back to Gujarat. I had to return to Wales, though, in time for my grandmother’s 100th birthday. It was a lovely occasion for a family reunion . It was my father Gerry’s 70th birthday the next day as well, so there was lots to celebrate.
Today, I’ll be talking about my reasons for returning to Gujarat and what I did and didn’t drink in India.
After meeting up with my friend in Jaipur, I travelled to Bhuj in Gujarat, where I spent some time on my last trip. You might remember me talking about Bhuj when I went there the first time. I was very impressed with all the wonderful handcrafted products they make there. I got to know a lot of the local craftsmen and tradesmen  and I found lots of gifts for friends and family. Since then I’ve been thinking about all the beautiful things they make there and whether there might be a market in Europe for some of those products. I decided to go back in order to establish  some possible business connections. I met with as many people as possible, so I was very busy. I had lots of contacts from my last visit, of course, so it was easy to meet new people as well. It was all very informal  though. I didn’t make any appointments beforehand . I just showed up at their homes or workshops  to talk about possible business ideas. Everyone was very happy to show me around and, of course, everywhere I went I was offered chai. If you go to see anyone in India, you’re always offered chai. I spent most of my time sitting and chatting  with people in their homes and workshops, so I was offered a lot of chai.
As soon as I sat down, they would call their local chai wallah. A chai wallah is a person who makes chai. In no time at all the chai wallah would bring us chai. Chai is a bit like espresso: you only get a small shot  of it. After a while I started to get quite addicted to chai. It’s probably all the sugar and caffeine that makes it so addictive. The basic ingredients of chai are milk, tea and sugar - a lot of sugar. They like their chai very sweet. It’s almost like syrup. There was one chai shop I liked going to because the chai there wasn’t so sweet. I later found out that the chai wallah there is diabetic. You can also judge the price of sugar by how sweet the chai is. When the price of sugar goes up the chai is less sweet. The type of tea and sugar used in chai is always the same but they use different types of milk. Cow’s milk is most commonly used but some people prefer buffalo milk or goat’s milk or even camel milk. Some chai wallahs also add spices. They might add fresh ginger or ground ginger, cloves or cardamom or black pepper. The possibilities are endless. The way chai is served can also vary . It’s sometimes served in small glasses, sometimes in little cups made of steel or china. My favourite though is the way they serve it in Kolkata. There you get small clay cups that you smash on the ground after you’ve finished your chai. In Gujarat they like to use saucers . Saucers are the small plates that usually support a cup. But because it’s so hot in Gujarat - it was 40 degrees every day when I was there - it takes too long for the chai to cool down  if it’s in a cup. People are too impatient to wait that long, so instead of serving it in cups they just use the saucers. They hand  you a saucer and you carefully balance it on your fingers and thumb and then they pour the chai onto the saucer. You blow on it a couple of times and then it’s cool enough to drink. I’ve tried to make chai since I got back to the UK but it never tastes quite right. I’ve given up  making my own chai now. I’m happy for it to just be something I can look forward to when I go to India.
There was another reason I drank so much chai in Gujarat. Gujarat is one of the few dry states in India. That is to say, you can’t buy, sell or drink alcohol in Gujarat. When I asked the locals why, they told me it’s because Mahatma Gandhi was from Gujarat. Gandhi didn’t drink alcohol, and alcohol was banned  shortly after his death. So instead of a nice cold beer in the evening, people drink hot chai. When the sun would finally set after another very hot day, I’d join some of the locals on their scooters  and we would drive out into the desert and stop at roadside chai stalls. We’d sit sipping  chai and gazing up at the stars. I really wanted a cold beer at first, so I kept asking if there was any way to buy alcohol. The fact that I couldn’t just buy a beer made me crave  it all the more. It turned out that it is possible to buy alcohol legally if you’re a foreigner or from a different state in India. You just need a permit . In order to get a permit, you have to show your passport and proof of when you arrived in Gujarat. In my case that was a train ticket. The rule is that you have to apply for your permit within 16 days of arriving in Gujarat. I, of course, not knowing about this rule had stupidly thrown my train ticket away . This made it much more difficult to get a permit to buy alcohol. I had to go to one government office, wait for them to make some phone calls, then go to a different government office, wait for someone to come back from lunch, chat to them, drink some chai, apologise for throwing away my train ticket, etc. It took me a whole day but I did finally get my permit. As soon as I had my permit, I went to one of the two hotels in Bhuj that sell alcohol. I bought some beer and couldn’t wait to drink it. But after all the waiting and craving, it didn’t really taste that good. I only drank one of the beers I’d bought. I gave the rest to a local friend who was very excited about my permit. I stuck to  chai after that.
That’s almost it from me. Later this year, Gerry and I are going to interview each other. One of my podcasts will be with Gerry. If you have any questions that you’d like Gerry to ask me, let me know and I’ll pass them on to him. Thank you all for listening and thank you for your comments. You can find all our episodes on our website podclub.ch or by downloading our app. You can also download our vocabulary trainer and you can find me on Instagram using the hashtags #PodClubOwen and #oweninchina. Gerry will be back in two weeks and my next podcast will be on 22nd June. I hope you tune in again then. Have a great month! Bye for now!