A cup of Earl Grey is more than just a cup of Earl Grey

Arun Kumar
4 min readMay 5, 2022


Arun Kumar

Photo by Yaopey Yong on Unsplash

It is the month of April, and it is still cold outside. Like a newborn calf, spring is trying to get on its feet, feel free, and prance around with childish abundance. It gets up, wobbles a little but sits down again to catch a few breaths. It is not quite the time for blossoms yet.

It is cold outside, and I sit in the warmth of my living room. A warm cup of Earl Grey nestles in between my palms; steam rises and its aroma wafts in the air. And with it comes the memory of transiting through the Heathrow airport where I had my first cup of Earl Grey, and I was sold. Chance happenings that sometimes become lasting companions like Proust’s Madeleines dipped in a cup of tea.

The surroundings feel peaceful, and it is hard to imagine that at this very moment, in a different part of space, there is a war raging and a peaceful life for countless has been upended.

When viewed in the vastness of the universe, these two points in space are the same, but in one, there are children growing up with their psyche wounded forever. They will look towards the sky in the east and carry bitterness and hatred.

But thoughts digress.

In this quiet and cozy morning, I am reading a kindle book on nutrition and healthy eating. It is telling me what potential influence molecules in different foods can have on our mental and physical health. Flavonoids, Omega-3, Probiotics. It is suggesting that I drink more red wine and eat more turmeric (organic, if I can afford it). Load up on antioxidants, Arun, it says, and counter the harshness this world sometimes can bring.

This simple act of reading in a quiet surrounding, shrouds a reality, easily missed.

The fact that I had the wherewithal to buy a book on Kindle, have the luxury of the warmth of my living room, and have the time to read it, hides the fact that a confluence of several inequalities made it possible.

Let me count the ways.

I am in a position to spend $14.99 to buy a book and do not have to set aside that money to put food on the table. The financial inequality, and having discretionary income, gives me choices that people on the other side of the fence do not have.

I had the winning lottery to be born in a stable country, in a family that had the means to provide for physical nourishment, and for education. The contribution of these social inequalities in reading the book today is no less profound.

Generally, everything in nature follows a bell curve — height of people; how long people live; height of trees in a forest; how fast a sprinter can run a 100-meter dash; or how good someone can be at playing the piano.

Included in the universality of the bell curve that proliferates all around us, is also the innate cognitive capabilities we start with. That genetics can have a hand in setting up the base level for cognitive potential makes sense from the perspective of evolution. And just maybe, that I am reading the book has something to do with a biological inequality.

After all, we have watched plenty of dystopian movies and have read sci-fi books where parents have the choice to select genetic traits to have an offspring with desired traits. Sure, this could be all fantasy or wishful thinking. The thought, however, has crossed the psyche of mankind.

The possible contribution of genes could set the baseline on which environmental, social, economical inequalities operate to amplify initial differences, however small.

The fact that I am reading a book that is an outcome of someone spending a good part of their time and effort and I am going to gain the knowledge and information that someone else assembled, is going to further enhance the inequality we start with.

There is someone sitting in the darkness, trying to stay warm on a wintry night, mind and body numb with thoughts of warmth and food that tomorrow may bring, will miss out on learning that blueberries, preferably organic, are an excellent source of antioxidant molecules.

I am reading the book while sitting in the warmth of my living room, relishing the aroma of Earl Grey, is not such an innocuous an event, after all. Shrouded in it is a long thread of inequalities that ultimately make our life.

Maybe someday we will evolve beyond the hands of natural selection and we could all be in the place I am in this moment.