Sunday, May 17, 2020


I smile in anticipation after finding a piece of shriveled ginger in the fridge. With fresh ginger no longer available, this piece is pregnant with possibilities. I drop it into boiling water, and wait for the flavours to seep out.
Ginger is not just ginger. It can be adrakwali chai.

“Thoda chai patti aur shakkar de sakte ho?”, a man asked my friend when she at the grocer.
A stranded laborer, he was getting food from the government. But it was chai he craved for.
She gave him all the money in her purse, wishing she had more.
Back in the space which his family inhabits, he will brew chai for his wife and child. As they sip the sugary concoction together, at least for a few moments, the city would feel like home.
Chai is not just chai. It never was. Chai is belonging.

I drop the Red Label chaipatti in. And wait.

In camps where stranded laborers are housed, they wait for 4 pm. Chaitime.
Today there is no chai. The camps have run out of money. They barely have enough for food.
Reduce the food, they say, but give us our chai.
Chai is not an essential, but it is necessary to stay alive.

The steaming beverage on a hot summer day. The sugar rush it provides.
Chai is belonging.
It is the feeling of being wanted.
Of letting you forget you situation.
Of making you feel that you are in control.
I pour the chai into my favourite mug, and inhale deeply. The pungency of the ginger hits me like a tsunami. Carries me away to the ocean where only chai drinkers go.
Chai means different things to different people.

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