The school bag was thumped enthusiastically on the table. One shoe was flung at the shoe rack followed by another mud spattered school shoe. Two feet clad in white socks pranced till the bedroom door, the left hand holding on steadily to an imaginary harness & the right expertly mimicking the movement of a lasso. A boisterous “Yee-Haw!” was elicited before the bedroom door was kicked open by as much force as could be mustered by an eight year old, as a result of his glee.
The school uniform was stripped with much hurry, one foot hopping alternately to get rid of the pants. The uniform was hurled across the bedroom, different parts of it landing miscellaneously. A much more comfortable clothing was donned. Little Avi’s elation knew no bounds today. It was his Dimma’s 72nd birthday!
He had scratched his head for about a week to come up with a suitable present for his Dimma. His pocket money was sufficient only for what it was given: alu chaat for five rupees a plate, from Raju Chaat wala right across his school gate. It finally struck him on his 7th day of brainstorming to give her what she liked best. Cha! Yes! His storytime with her was always accompanied with her cha. Why didn’t he think of this before!
It was eleven thirty at night when he conjured a plan. He was forbidden to go to the kitchen after his short experiment with the matchsticks. His dad would be working till late in the office that night. He waited till midnight when his mum was asleep. He then tip-toed into the kitchen and turned the dim bulb on. His eyes scanned the kitchen counter to rest on the boxes of teaChar lined one after the other. There were six of them. He stuck his fingers inside the teaChar Turmeric Ginger box , pulled out a fistful of it and put it in a clean handkerchief.
He now pulled out the handkerchief he had wrapped with a red bow, tucked safely beneath his pillow.
He donned his Dadu’s old straw hat which he believed to be his cow boy hat and cycled his way to his Dimma’s.
“Dimma!! Dimma!! I’m here!! I’m here!!”, said Avi jumping up and down.
“I got you a present!”
“Oh my dearest Avishek, come here!” Saying so she pulled him into her lap. “And what’s this you’ve got me, my sweet child?”
“Open it! Open it!”
She untied the red bow and smiling filtered the tea leaves through her fingers.
“Is this the turmeric ginger tea your mum has been telling me about, my child? Does she know you stole some for the purpose of gifting me?” She asked Avi, cupping his little chin in her warm palm.
Little Avi’s eyes widened, “How do you know what tea I got you Dimma?”
Dimma smiled a knowing smile, “Beta, I know chai leaves like the back of my palm. It has been my constant companion through all stages of my life. Your Dadu had acquainted me with all kinds of chai. When he was alive he taught me how to brew all of them accordingly.
These tea leaves here feel premium to my touch. I know its’ kind by its’ lovely fragrance.” Saying so she brought it close to her nose. “Do you know this tea here has its’ unique benefits? It can moisturize my sweet Avi’s skin, it can help manage stress and can also help detox skin to prevent acne.”
She held his little hand and started walking him towards the kitchen. “Come now, let us brew this together.”
Soaking up all of this information, Avi’s curious eyes landed on a wooden box on the kitchen counter. It read teaChar Tulsi Green tea.
Tugging Dimma by the hand he frowned. “What a strange name…what’s char Dimma? Do you think they forgot the spelling of chai?”
Dimma laughed heartily at this and told little Avi, “Char means tea in Chinese, my dearest. It was the chinese people who started the culture of tea. Now more of this later, let me show you how to brew what you’ve got me.”
Saying so she laid the handkerchief on the kitchen counter, strained the leaves through her fingers one last time and brought it close to her nose. Tousling Avi’s hair she set her utensil to boil and laid out two cups with their saucers and her teapot on the tray.
She closed her eyes and contently murmured, “Chai isn’t chai unless you find zeal in every sip Avi.”