My mother is making tea. I inch closer to the pot and let the steam waft into my face. It is the most comforting smell in the world for me. It reminds me always of quiet evenings after school when dad came home after work and I finished my homework on the dining table. I wasn't allowed to drink tea till I was much older but on some days, mom would let me have a sip. Those sips were like a peek into all things grown up, a glimpse to all the freedom that will come soon.
I am 13 when I am finally allowed to drink tea properly, still not too much, just a small cup in the evening. I dunk the sweet raisin bun bought for a few sen from the roti man and watch the tea rivulets trickle down the side of my hands as I gobble the bun.
I remember the pots and pots of tea brewed on Divali day for the streaming guests. And the tea shared after a favourite uncle's wedding, amidst the teary spectacle of goodbyes, noisy children, wilting flowers and messy decorations still strewn along the aisle.
Teh tarik, those floating creamy concoctions, a glistening yellow-brown in the air. Often overly sweet, the frothy air bubbles brim from the cheap plastic glass. Cooling parched throats on swelteringly hot days.
Tea my mother wakes up to make on nights that I stay up to study for an exam. The tea of elation when we gathered to celebrate exam results. The tea of relief we all drank the morning the much delayed letter saying that I was accepted at university arrived.
Jasmine, oolong, assamese, darjeeling, earl gray and green tea. Tea infused with ginger, raspberry, lemon, almonds, peppermint, camomile. Friendships built over tea and curry puff. Late night tea at the Bangsar mamak where I smoke my first cigarette and decide that I don't like it after all. But smoke anyway because it is cool to do so.
It is my first winter in England and I am trying to make my own masala tea. I pound the ginger and boil it with cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. I add more sugar but it just doesn't taste right. It imbues my heart with the gnawing loneliness of harsh and cold days.
Tea that was all wrong. The brackish tea that was handed over the day my grandma died and strange women stood making the brew in the kitchen. A watery tea, a sloshing brown mud coloured tea. All wrong, wrong. Like the tea left undrunk, when hot tears streamed furiously after the exchange of the most hurtful words. And the tea that I never made the day you left in a huff and we had our first major row.
Milky tea at a road side hillstation tucked at the Himalayan foothills which I hold with hands still adorned with bridal mehendi. Realizing that I didn't want to keep my mind shut from you anymore. Posh afternoon tea to be had while nibbling dainty sandwiches, scones and clotted cream. Chai Tea Latte to unburden the mind and feel light again.