Darjeeling Oolong (Baba, My Grandfather)



The feathered knife of its winter thinning the limbs of neighborhood’s teen boys into brittle-husked grasshoppers as they lined up against our lawn’s scraggly wire fence. All of us girls wrapped in layers of glittering wool. We festooned the seashell shaded wall of our old terrace with vines of Christmas lights. Every Friday evening, he’d invite home his old prison comrades, communists, college professors, some cab driver he’d met on his way to the bank: the whole city. Through the kaleidoscope of this crowd, he himself could be easily spotted in his crisp Nehru jacket, his silver fox hair and eyes the color of black garnets. Everyone gathered around a rosewood table teeming with plates of reshmi kebabs & trays upon trays of Darjeeling oolong would pass through an army of hands.

I remember the occasional moth committing suicide in a teacup, its limp body shored against the calligraphy of paisley motifs on the ceramic; the molten gold of that stunning brew the same tint as fir nectar honey. I would always dip the tip of my nose into his empty cup just to inhale the last trace of muscatel. The gathering – mushaira in urdu – sprawled across a harem of zardosi cushions, sequined his tiny rose garden with stray stanzas of ghazals by Mirza Ghalib till midnight. Those nights I was allowed to stay up past my bedtime so I could learn that anything cold and harsh could be braved with two very simple ingredients.

Tea & poetry.


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Scherezade is a jungian scarab moonlighting as a clinical psychologist. Her first collection of poetry Bone Tongue was published by Thought Catalog in 2015. She can be found squeeing about militant rabbits at viperslang.tumblr.com and twitter.com/zaharaesque.

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