When the aroma of tea escapes her five by eight kitchen to probably reach her neighbours, Savi knows that the tea leaves are dissolving in the air as much as in the milk. She digs out a large piece of ginger from the fruit basket, and cardamom seeds and cloves from the shelf, to beat them to death in her Imam dasta. The whipped layer of cream engulfs the crushed spices like the evil sea takes humans in. Setting the gas stove to sim flame, Savi lets the tea take its time.
After a rough span of ten minutes, when the tea has boiled to half of its quantity, she filters it in two medium-sized cups. She sips slightly from her cup to taste it, and when the marinated beverage relieves her cold-caught throat, she thinks she is good to go. Placing them on a wooden tray, she heads to the hall, where her better half is waiting to melt his stiffed body a bit with the morning tea.
“Ta-da! Here is your tea, sir,” Savi sings, passing one cup to her husband. “With extra ginger, as you like it.”
“Thank you, sweetheart,” Saurabh compliments her gesture with an affectionate smile.
“You know what, you and your tea are the only saviours in this deadly December,” Saurabh winks. He takes his first sip and closes his eyes, to taste it to the full. Savi shakes her head, shyly at his naughty comment. A few jiffies fly, and when she sees her husband twisting in a comfier position on the couch, her psyche decides to snatch his comfort.
“I hope you remember what date is today,” She asks in a ‘high school viva external’ tone.
Saurabh brings his frozen body in attentiveness and gulps down his saliva. You’re a criminal if you don’t remember the dates after the marriage and guess what, this can lead your wife to be a more heinous criminal!
“Ummm…of course, I do. Todayyy…ummm..today is..” stutters a now conscious Saurabh. Looking at the fright on his face, Savi bursts into peals of laughter.
“What’s funny?” Saurabh asks knowingly that he only is the matter of joke at the moment. He scratches his head in confusion.
“I know you don’t remember,” Savi continues to laugh at his misery.
“Anyway, today we had tea together for the first time,” she makes him recall. “Remember? College canteen?”
His pupils roll, trying to recall and just when the incident strikes his memory, his head nods in dismay.
“Oh, God! Fuck, yeah! How can I forget???” His voice thickens, even more, when he exclaims. “Also, if memory serves me right, that was the first time I had tea in my life, right?”
Their eyes dive into each other, collecting the pearls of memories beneath the sea of their timeless love.
“Yes…You were a caffeine addict, and I proved to you how overrated the coffee is,” Savi nods, smiling from ear to ear.
“Where is the lie!” smiles Saurabh. “And I never got back to coffee till date.”
They both sip in silence, looking at each other. Their love story seems like a clear win, and they don’t need to hold each other’s hands to announce to the world that they are hands in hands.
“But I think you wish to,” Savi breaks the ice again. Saurabh coughs, about to spit the tea back into the cup.
“Sorry? I didn’t get you, baby. What do you mean?” He frowns, lines of confusion visible on his forehead.
“You wish to taste coffee again, don’t you?” Savi questions with the stern in her otherwise soft voice.
“But…Why would you ask that?” Saurabh finds it strange enough to ponder over.
“Tell no!” Savi asks with a poker face.
“I don’t know. Maybe yes,” Saurabh tries to answer. He gives his next words some thought. “Ummmm….but only if you make it for me.”
“Oh really?” Savi shows up with a sly smile. “Okay then. One day, I will make it for you, for sure. But, for now, you have to tolerate this old school tea.”
“Who the hell said I am tolerating it?” Saurabh says, sipping from his cup, followed by a half-smile. “I am fucking enjoying it.”
Savi stares at him for a few seconds as if capturing him. Then, her eyes roll down his body from head to toe. Her heartbeats catch a ferocious pace, and she squeezes her breasts to calm her anxiety.
“You have no idea how much I love you,” Savi raises from her chair, nears the couch, and her shivering fingers caress her beloved husband’s face. Her eyes fill up to the brim with salty water. She is nearly sobbing.
“What happened, darling?” Saurabh asks, having no clue what made her so temperamental, all of a sudden. “Why….a..re….yo..u..cry..inggggg?”
“I’ll miss you, Saurabh. I’ll miss you terribly,” she continues to rain out of her eyes and surrenders her head on his shoulder.
Saurabh’s cell phone brings her back to her senses as its loud ringtone echoes in the hall. Unwillingly, she frees herself from the warmth of her beloved’s embrace. She wipes her tears off with her dupatta and reaches for the phone. The name flashing on the screen is familiar to her, and she bites her lower lip before she takes the call.
“Hey, sweetheart! Remember the coffee date in the evening?” asks the enthusiastic voice on the other side.
Savi chooses to be quiet, and when she is about to cut the call, the sharp voice asks again. “Don’t tell me, you forgot, for the sake of Jesus Christ!”
“Sorry to say, but he cannot have coffee anymore,” replies Savi in a firm tone and disconnects the call.
She reaches the balcony. Gripping tightly on the railings, she inhales the misty wind. Standing right there, she eyes on the city that is covered with dense fog, just like a layer of foam on a mug of coffee. She turns, and resting her back on the railing, looks at the wall poster in the hall to read aloud the quotation on it :
“One should always be loyal to tea because the caffeine in coffee is dangerous to health.”
A stream of uncontrollable tears escapes her eyes just like that of white foam from her dead husband’s mouth, who is lying on the couch, wide-eyed.