By Samir Shukla
On this morning in early May, the daylight slapped me through the blinds. I rose from the bed while a mini orchestra of cracking and snapping bones emanating from my body soundtracked the scene. I parted the blinds and squinted at the fiery day. The sun was already on its way around the block, waiting for my sloth-mimicking self to come join it. Come on dude, get moving. I stumbled into the bathroom for the morning ritual, thinking of the soon to be consumed hot cup of chai that is so essential to fully awaken the senses.
While walking out, I smacked my elbow on the bathroom door rim and cursed my clumsiness while caressing the buzzing bone on each step down the stairs into the kitchen.
The brain is still in a bit of fog as I pour the hot chai already made by my wife into a mug. I let the pollen-stiffened breeze into the kitchen by opening the backdoor to the deck. Man, it’s a bright day, but yes, the chai. This godly blend of black Assam tea, milk, shredded ginger or maybe chai spices, depending on your preference, a sprig of mint, pinch of sugar…boiled and readied just at the right mix. Some folks concocted this blend back in the distant past that has become known as classic Indian chai.
Sure, that infernal coffee maybe trying to elbow its way into cups and mugs around the world, but chai will always remain its daddy. It’s a simple fact. Fight me for it.
I do drink coffee on occasion, but here’s the thing. Coffee is like quickie sex, a jolt, and maybe it gets you going, but leaves the senses desiring more. Chai, on the other hand, is like making love – slow, meditative, deliberate. It calms the many morning voices in your mind sparring for your attention, helping filter out the noise, leaving clarity.
I stand on the wooden deck overlooking the yard while cars on the road on the other side of the short wall marking the end of our backyard zip by. They all carry various denizens going about their business. The busy bees and the school kids, the worker ants and the social callers, the supply and demand runners, all of them activated on this sun-tingly Tuesday.
I’m thinking of the day’s must do things while holding the mug of chai in my hand, and, um hold on, gulp, ah, well, they’ll fall in line.
A pollen-poked pair of quick sneezes escape me. I wiggle my nose looking at a grove of greening trees in the corner of the yard, where a tall, barren tree pokes out above the canopy. It is clearly dead, but still standing tall. The birds still use it as a perch. There’s an amorous pair up there right now. The way they are lingering, they must already have had their cups of chai. Yup.
The sickly dog of an unseen neighbor behind the grove of trees lets out a few requisite barks as a runner passes by.
A pair of squirrels chase each other on top of the compound wall and pounce into one of the thick pines and disappear. The rabbits living in the underbrush of the grove of trees hop out into the yard for their breakfast. Something spooks them and they hop back into the thicket. I don’t call my backyard a lawn. It’s a quilt. A quilt of various green grasses, dry spots and jovial weeds nestled against each other to form this diverse landscape.
The brief silence of the empty road is suddenly blasted by the siren of a fire truck screaming past. My calm disturbed, I take a big gulp.
A school bus filled with children zips by. I’m immediately transported to my youth, just for few seconds, but I recall and fast forward years of memories during those seconds.
I look at and swirl the last couple of drops in the bottom, lift the mug and let those drops slide down its length onto the tip of my tongue.
The lovebirds in the dead tree flitter away. The breeze shifts direction. A measly cloud gives up its valiant effort to give shade. The world passes by in varieties of cars. I am just standing here. This morning. Nothing more.