An ode to Chai…

5:30 am. Tejal woke up grouchy and moody.

It didn’t help that it was a Monday morning, and that her stomach was rumbling, reminding her of Sunday night’s rum and coke binge that lasted till the wee hours. Why she preferred rum-and-coke over a glass of Pinot Noir or even a vodka and OJ (which was what her drinking buddies preferred), she herself was not sure. It was one of those tastes that she picked up when in college and then it just stuck.

But the real reason of her bad mood was that e-mail that came up on her Black Berry just when she had slammed the last of her drink. It simply said “Major plagiarism in your proofs, need to talk @10am Monday. – Deepika”. In the ensuing mad rush back home, she berated herself all the way. She took her job as editor very seriously. How could she have messed up? In what remained of that night, and the early hours of Monday, she read and re- checked her submissions. And then, she realized that the author that had sent her the article had lifted nearly every-word from an online forum. Accepting such an article was a delinquency no editor could squirm their way out of.

She got out of bed and trudged to the kitchen. 5:45 am. Where was that ridiculous maid? She was already half an hour late. It was high time she fired her. She had been thinking about it for a few weeks now. And today, maybe it was the right time, it would help let off steam as well. The doorbell rang just then.

She controlled her anger, opened the door, let Asha in and said to her ” Make my chai and then come to my room. I need to talk to you”.

10 minutes later, Asha walked meekly into the bedroom with the cup of tea. She looked tense and kept pulling at the end of her saree pallu. Perhaps she had anticipated that bad news was forthcoming.

Tejal lifted the cup of chai and took a long sip. She felt the taste of ginger and the rich flavour of the long leafed tea. She took another sip. The chai was sublime, and as it worked its way into her system, she felt herself relaxing. She uncurled her fingers which she had not realized were curled into a fist. The knots of worry started to ease. What the heck, so what if I made a slip at work, she thought, there’s a first for everything. Why take it out on myself, and why take it out on the maid.

“Didi, you wanted to talk about something?”. She turned to Asha “No, its fine Asha, just come on time from tomorrow, ok?”. The maid nodded earnestly, clearly relieved.

Tejal gave her a smile and went back to her tea.

~~~~~~~~

9:15 am.

Deepika pulled into the parking lot in her office. She got out, slammed the car door behind her, picked up her laptop, her ID card and her gym bag from the back seat and slammed the back door louder than the front door. “Passive-aggressive.. That’s what he used to call me, I’ll show him who’s passive now”, she thought. This was a new side of her, she had surprised herself when she had thrown his bouquet right into his face last night. Right after he told her they couldn’t get married for another year. And they had been dating for 10 years. Any other woman would have given up by now. He would be on an overseas assignment for a year, and so he had no choice. And hence, the bouquet took the brunt. After the bouquet, for added emphasis, she smashed his coffee mug to the floor. Shards from the cup that used to read “LSB, Batch of 2003” glowered at them from the floor. And then he stormed off.

She carried the mood with her through the remainder of Sunday night. And then flipped open her laptop and went through her editors’ proofs, just to distract herself. And then she saw the glaring mistake made by one of her editors. The proof, about to go into production, was the duplicate of an article she had seen a couple of months ago on an online forum. “She better have a very good excuse ready tomorrow morning”, she thought as she shot a mail to Tejal.

Monday morning, her mood was no better, she had not yet received a message or a missed call from him. To hell with him, she thought. And then drove to office.

Once she got to her desk, she checked the time, 9:30 am. Her head was buzzing. She opened the laptop and checked her inbox. 20 mails since last night? What was with the world anyway? She started reading them. Her head was now throbbing. On the 5th mail, she got up, locked her system and decided she needed a chai. She walked to the pantry, and saw that the vending machine was being repaired. She cursed under her breath, and took the lift to the ground floor, where the sandwich and snacks vendor sat. She ordered for a tea and began tapping her coins impatiently on the stall window. When the cup came, she snatched it impatiently and dropped the coins at the window, muttering a cursory “Thanks”.

Deepika lifted the cup of chai and took a long sip. She felt the taste of elaichi (cardamom) and the rich flavour of the long leafed tea. She took another sip. The chai was sublime, and as it worked its way into her system, she felt herself relaxing. She uncurled her fingers which she had not realized were curled into a fist. The knots of worry started to ease. What the heck, so what if we get married next year. Why take it out on Ankur, and why take it out on my staff?

She reached her floor. As she approached her cabin she saw Tejal standing outside, looking tense, as if she had not slept the whole night. She took another sip of her tea and walked up to Tejal.

“Deepika, I’m really sorry, I know it was a big mistake ….” She started. Deepika interjected “Its ok Tejal, there’s always a first time. Come, lets call up production and sort this out”. She looked at Tejal and smiled.

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