Four Meditations on Tea… Mostly

I

 

Questions. To a tea kettle.

What if you woke up one day and found that you had a lot to say. But no desire to say it. Not just out of some whim. Or rage. Or fancy. Or because you felt a strong sense of resignation. Bordering on exhaustion. Or the frailty of the cynic. Who couldn’t care less. You were boiling over. Bursting. To talk. To share. Everything. Thoughts that you had taken to bed. The night before. Waiting for the morning. Woken up with them. Still as fresh. In fact more so. After centuries of carefully assimilating so much philosophy. And history. And humanity. Brimming over. With ideas. Too stimulating to contain. Burning. With excitement. Feverish and quivering. Wanting to erupt. Ideas. Staring you in the eye. So near that you could hear their heavy breathing. Feel the sharpness of their breath on your forehead. Solutions so simple. You just had to shout them from the rooftops. So that people would hear. And yet the words would not form. You just stopped. Dead. In your tracks. Turned your back on language. Walked away. Thinking thoughts. That the alphabet had yet to decipher.

What then?

 

II

 

Invitation.

Invite the visitor with the dark cloak

the wide brimmed hat

and the staff with a twisted handle

into your home

share your autumnal flush

by the fireplace

sipping from the finest porcelain

drink to his health

and yours

let the night be full

of stories

the life you have lived

these so many years

engage the gentleman

in a wide ranging conversation

about life and

death almost

as if you had not guessed

the purpose of his visit

 

III

 

Kukicha.

 

Fold them up. Dear friend.

Our conversations.

Pack them away.

Its time to go home.

 

This doesn’t mean we will not talk.

Or argue. Or discuss the world. And its ways.

Or literature. And Science.

And the prices of commodities. As they rise and fall.

Or the survival of the book.

Iraq. Iran. And Obama.

Over Sunday breakfasts.

Though I must confess it bothered me that we had moved.

From intimacy of thought. To politics.

Worse. Human rights and poverty.

And the lack of enough good men. And women.

In a world so loud that it had nowhere to go. But deaf.

I floated out of myself. So that I may rise.

Above what I thought were safe topics of discussion. Hating them.

All I wanted in stead was the intimacy of our earlier confessions.

The ones in which we were brothers against the world.

But these had gone. Well before you did. But I could hope, couldn’t I?

 

Now for our Sunday breakfasts.

I will do the talking. And you will listen.

 

As I savour the Kukicha made from the finest twig.

 

IV

 

Flea Market

A photo-album. Sip. Odds and endings. Mannequins with pealing paint. Sip. Chipped alabaster figurines. A pair of fencing foils. Long sip. Carved leg of chair. Microscopes. Fine this leaf. Darjeeling? Mirrors clad in wrought iron frames. Gramophones. Ivory horns. Siptwirlimbibe. Wooden ducks with copper wings. Jazz records and photo frames. Japanese dolls. With fans to match. Magnifying glasses in turtle shapes. Silver candlesticks. Thin bodied. Colouroflight. Dancing figures. Musical clocks. Floral? The aroma. And a kaleidoscope made of brass. Compasses. Of different shapes and sizes. Also in brass. Handguns from the civil war. Musky spiciness. Muscatel. I forget which. And a brown calf leather whip. A toy train set that works on electricity. Spectacle frames. Drinkdrink drinklong. Oolong. Horn rimmed and in twenty-two carat gold. Carved elephants. Bookends made of granite. And mouth organs. Postcards from 1914. With love letters to Dear Olive. Ah Camellia Camellia! Evergreen Tea Flower. And old magazines from the turn of the last century. Advertising cigarettes no longer in fashion. Pipes. And a set of leather bound stories of O. Henry. Ancient coins. And rare stamps. A goatskin notebook. Snuff boxes in silver. White tea yellow tea green tea. A porcelain vase with yellow painted butterflies. Sip. Pu-erh tea. A fishing rod. With tackle. A wicker basket. A deep-blue and gold dinner set for eight. Black tea. Sip. The mind. A flea market. Of images collected. I put down my empty cup.

 

The years go by. I still haven’t found anything to buy.

Not yet anyway.

 

And a fifth. On Coffee? Maybe.

Anything can happen over coffee. Someone pops into your office without a warning. Like a thought in your head. Sudden. But courteous. Not quite stepping over the threshold. Half-hovering. Leaning forward with the upper part of the body. You hear before you sense the presence. Would you mind if I drop these films in? You look up from your desk and before you can register the politeness you hear yourself inviting the voice to sit. Come. Please. Sit. Have a coffee. Later. Much later. After the voice has left. You give it shape. And body. And register the clothes. Understated in their elegance. Light khaki shirt. Full-sleeved. Fawn cotton trousers. Tailored. Not off a hanger for sure. The glasses. Round. The closely cropped beard. And eyes that popped out of the frames with restless energy. You also register a certain warmth. And a liking.

That coffee. As the voice would later say. Only half tongue-in-cheek. Changed his life. He blamed the coffee, and therefore me, for having made him drop his profession as a shrink. Give up England. And his life there. Return to Calcutta. To a life of obsessive scholarship. Writing. Translating. Talking film. Reading. Always the reading. And yes. New friendships. In fact a new life.

Interestingly. He never did finish that first coffee. Instant that it was. Anathema for a man who coveted his beans. And the freshness of coffee only he could grind to satisfaction. And here I was offering him Nescafe. He sipped it. Again the politeness. Hadn’t yet found his way into rejecting it outright. His courtesy was a hurdle. He would. In the not so distant future. Learn to scoff at my well-stirred instant. Once it became clear that our relationship that had no other way to go. Except. Forward. Later I was to learn to buy him his Blue Mountain and his Columbian Roast. On my frequent travels. Only to be told smilingly that he mixed them in proportions that were a secret. As life would have it they will remain a secret.

I will continue to buy his coffee.

Only from now on it would be for myself.

Naveen Kishore writes. Every single day. Well, for the last 1133 days, that is! He is still waiting to be discovered! Publishers, unless they are TSE, need other publishers to 'do' them! It will happen! Meanwhile seagullbooks.org is the site for our books he represents and other activities. There is also the Seagull School of Publishing!

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