Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Ode to a cuppa

Sweet brown liquid you
All seasonal steaming stimulant
Flavoured ginger or elaichi
But never never red
Unless in some distant village
Or Manipuri home

I met you in my boyhood
Slurped out of saucers after church
Or taken innocently from our neighbours
Contrary to my German mother’s wish

We met repeatedly o'er time n space
In pots from melted snow while going up mountains,
Served in crusty glasses along midnight tube-lit roadside bus-halts,
Huge milky mugs in Shanti Kunj
The first sing-song call in the morning in a foetid train
The last gulp before the day’s work ends

You were in our hands as we heard sad stories of broken lives
You offered a set of small comforting welcomes to strangers
Who wanted to tell my wife and I the things that did not come easily to tongue

Is it a wonder that you help shift my night-owlness
Into early-birdnality, as your steaming ginger-flavoured presence
Graces the side of my Bible in morning prayer

Sweet, sugar-laden liquid you
(Miracle: I am still not diabetic at 46)
You reminded me of Bharat when I was in the spic-and-span ‘States’
A stranger, I looked up an Indian cookbook to recreate your spices
And served chai-tea from henceforth
Winning a few converts and making the odd chai-evangelist

As today’s sun has dipped
And twilight is punctuated by crow-cries and hammer blows and traffic rumble
Of our dear urbanity
Another cuppa has disappeared into me (a big one)
Slipping lightly over tongue and soothing slightly sore throat
While fingers tapped keys

Evoking tea

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