• Chai

    I am, proudly, a true born and bred Pakistani. Which means I love chai. Actually, I can’t survive without it. You might find it surprising, but before getting married, I could hardly make a decent cup. Let’s just say, If marriages were still arranged true to earlier traditions, I would have stayed a spinster all my life.
    Husband and I were friends before we got engaged. So my parents knew him, as he would visit our house around birthdays, emergency computer fix ups and in pick & drop situations. But the day I told my parents about him as a prospect husband, things changed.
    The next time NotHusbandYet came over, it was a Sunday. My mother was out shopping and my poor virus ridden AutoCad software had crashed again! However, unlike the usual customary Salam dua, Abu jee sat him down this time in the drawing room. It was clear. My father meant business!
    “Go beta, make two cups of chai” he asked me casually.
    “Nabeela................Nabeelaaaa..................Nabeeeeeelaaaaaaa.................................”, I called the maid, searching for her everywhere. Then I remembered it was her day off.
    OH NO!
    With a sinking heart, I headed towards the kitchen, James Blunt’s “goodbye my lover, goodbye my friend” echoing in my mind.
    “It can’t really be that hard to make tea!”, I told myself unconvincingly. But after 15 minutes and two failed attempts, I gave up and opened the cabinet to get Tang instead.
    “There was no milk!”, I rehearsed in my mind, hoping my father will forget the container of 12 tetra packs, sitting in the pantry.
    It seemed though, lady luck was on my side that day.
    As I took out the bottle of Tang, I found two old looking tea bags behind it!
    Five minutes later, I walked out partially confident, with the tray. The tea was even accompanied by some beautifully arranged biscuits on a fine china plate.
    I found the men busy in conversation over stock exchange. Not sure what to do next, I sat on the empty chair across from my father.
    NotHusbandYet was the first to pick up his cup. His expressions remained blank, as he continued listening to my father while drinking his tea.
    I slowly let go of the breath I hadn’t realised I had been holding.
    Having finished what he was saying, Abu jee now took a sip. For a moment, there was complete silence. WOOOOSSHH went the tea as it sprayed out of his mouth, loud enough to scare the crows in the terrace. (This isn’t an exaggeration. I wish it was)
    WHAT IN GOD’S NAME IS THIS?!? He shouted, glaring at me from across the room.
    His eyes then turned, slowly, over to NotHusbandYet, who was holding his almost empty cup and avoiding all manner of eye contact. He seemed to be inspecting with full concentration some invisible crack on the marble floor.
    For some time, my father continued to look at both of us, his head turning from one to the other. If I hadn’t sunk myself inside the sofa cushions, I might have seen his mouth twitching behind his moustache.
    Six weeks, a couple of family dawats and many many more cups of chai later (specifically made by Nabeela), we were engaged to be married! 😅
    It’s been 9 years to that ‘incident’ and things are remarkably different now. Shaam ki Chai is a special bonding time for me and husband when we both unwind and talk about our day.(Or try to....we have kids you know).
    In retrospect, this experience taught me three important lessons:
    1. Never use old teabags, especially those exposed overtime to Air and Chaat masala.
    2. No important matters should be left for Sundays.
    3. With practice, patience and time, anyone can learn how to make chai.
    My husband, is a living proof of that!
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