Chai is not just to kick you awake, not just to keep you rooted, not just to welcome you home, not just to assuage hunger when food isn't handy, not just an experimental gift, not just to bond over standing at the tapri with a smoking-new buddy.
Chai is an hour in which to be left untouched, getting colder by the minute, while you write, writewritewritewrite, with a speed that overwhelms your sworn temptation. To sip when your fingers pause for thought, and let it half-register in your mind - 'it is cold'. To put it on the stove again, return to the writing, get caught up with one particular sentence that seems to be breathing larger, longer, until it is a whole paragraph. To look up at the stove and realise that the tea is boiling over and away. To bring what's left to the desk, take a sip, turn to the computer screen... 'so, where were we?'
Chai is to be left untouched, getting colder by the minute, while you write, writewritewrite, and to sip and think - 'it is cold'. To dunk it into the microwave. To look up when the microwave timer goes off, say aloud that you're coming, just half a minute... But to let it get cold all over again. To feel a pang of real sorrow as you finally pour it down the drain.
To make a fresh cup of chai. To shut down the word document, open the music folder, put on Tu Bin Bataaye, lean out of the window, fresh air on your hands, hands wrapped round warm cup, and give that cup your full attention.
Chai is for reaching out for, in the heat of a July cheated of the Monsoon, yet another day, snapping - 'of course it is too hot for chai!' But chai must be had... Leave out the milk. The milk makes the chai hotter, denser, more unbearable. Like the humidity makes the summer unbearable.
Chai is to curse over. Chai is to lemon and ginger over. Chai is a moment in which you try to find a cooler place on a simmering pillow, the breeze in a muggy night.
Chai is more than you'd believe.
Chai 1, 2, 3, 4, 5