Today, May 23, is the day of the Chestertown Tea Party, that provided one of the strongest pillars on which stands the world’s most powerful country, United States of America.
The Chestertown Tea Party was a protest against British excise duty on tea which, according to local legend, took place on May 23, 1774 in Chestertown, Maryland as a response to the British Tea Act. Chestertown tradition holds that, following the example of the more famous Boston Tea Party, colonial patriots boarded the brigantine Geddes in broad daylight and threw its cargo of tea into the Chester River. The event is celebrated each Memorial Day weekend with a festival and historic reenactment called the Chestertown Tea Party Festival.
The Tea Party event reminds me of back home in India where I grew up very fond of tea parties, of the original kind, friends' and especially my own birthday tea parties. I can easily call those one of the best days of my life when, as children, we longed for the next birthday tea party and made it the most memorable time ever with innovative games we enjoyed and the goodies we ate that invariably included cake, sandwiches and a variety of snacks. That was the time when the Britishers were counting their last years of the colonial rule in the country. During over 200 years of their dominating presence in India, perhaps anywhere they went in the world, two of their most traditional identities they always left behind – the English language and addiction to tea. They both remained with us even long after they had departed. What began as birthday tea parties in my childhood days had gained favor in many forms as I grew up - an Afternoon Tea Party suitable for many celebrations. When I would like to host a party that isn't as involved as a dinner party, a tea party was the answer. It was an ideal format for a bridal or baby shower, a retirement party, a birthday celebration, or time to catch up with good friends. It could be a very formal affair at some of the more elegant hotels, or it could be as casual as a pot of tea and some cookies.
As time passed, I saw tea parties taking another interesting form, known as Kitty Party, particularly popular amongst the elite women of New Delhi, my hometown in India. You can call it a time pass for bored housewives. From gossiping to enjoying a hearty tea, kitty parties became the new benchmark of social mobility in Delhi. An all out gossip session, a great place to flaunt your new outfit, share jokes and family feuds, a venue to showcase your creativity and a much awaited opportunity to shred your ma-in-law to pieces! The most common type of kitty parties were patronized by housewives who had plenty of time at hand once they packed off hubbies to office and babies to school. However, lately Kitties are much maligned as they are often associated with idle housewives who have nothing better to do but gossip.
After our retirement in India, we moved to USA to be with our only son settled here. Interestingly, though this country is amongst the biggest coffee lovers in the world, it was born out of the historic Boston and Chestertown Tea Party, 1773. Like the “Quit India” in the forties' India, the colonists were enthused to push for independence with the slogan, “Take your tea and shove it.” That’s how the idea of independent USA was conceived.