Over a cup of tea
One cup of water, 2 teaspoons of sugar (half a teaspoon extra, if you want it sweeter), half a cup of milk, and two tea bags for one person. She memorized once again, took a sneak peek from the kitchen to count the number of people and mentally made an estimate. She had to serve six cups for the ones waiting in the living room. She could not risk faltering today.
Her mother came in to see if everything was alright.
“Yes Ma, I am almost done. Please don’t come here and make me feel more conscious.”
“I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“I am, Ma. Don’t worry, go out now.”
“Biscuits are in the container on the upper rack. Don’t forget them.”
She rolled her eyes and let out a sigh, “Yes, mother.”
This wasn’t her first time. They would always come in for tea, say all good things, pump up her parents’ hopes and would never contact again. Excuses each time. She hated how she was made to parade every single time; act pleasing and speak politely. Such a gimmick this whole concept of “arranged marriage”! But her mother had promised this would be the last attempt and they wouldn’t bother her after this one. So she agreed for it one last time.
“So, I see your daughter is a trained classical dancer.” The guy said.
“Yes, she always loved dancing. So, we enrolled her into one of those schools.” Her father spoke and beamed with pride.
“Does she still dance?” His mother asked.
She overheard them and thought to herself, “There you go. Another reason to reject. Why don’t you just say you don’t want this proposal? Why take the pains for this performance? I just hope this play gets done with soon.” She then removed the vessel from the stove.
She reached for the scissors, cut the packet and started pouring milk in the cups which were aligned in a row. She was just about to dip the tea bags when she felt some one was watching over her. Her mom wouldn’t leave her alone for a moment she thought.
She turned and said, “Ma, I can do it. Why do you have....?” and she stopped.
It wasn’t Ma. It was the lady who had asked if she still dances.
“Yes, you sure can. I wanted to see you the moment I heard you dance. Just couldn’t wait out there any longer!” And the lady smiled.
Surekha managed to smile back and turned to place the tea bags in the cups.
“So, are you feeling happy with whatever is happening around you?”
Surekha wondered, “What sort of a question was that?
“I am sorry aunty, I don’t get you.”
“I mean this whole arranged-marriage concept, are you really okay with this kind of a meet? Everybody around and all eyes fixed on you. Come on, tell me the truth; are you really happy doing this?”
Surekha was zapped. Who is this lady really? For the first time some outsider had bothered to ask her if she wanted to do this or not. More so, somebody had walked up to her and bothered to ask her happiness too.”
“Frankly, all this is a bit overwhelming, aunty. First, nobody came up to me and spoke directly like you have done. You know, I mean, I would be lying if I said I am perfectly okay with this kind of meeting, but I want you to know I do want to get married someday. And this is just one of my attempts at that goal. So if it calls for a traditional tea-meet and my skills being tested each time, so be it.”
The lady said, “See, it’s none of my right to speak about your personal matter I know, but child, find stuff and do stuff which makes you happy. Believe me, if you don’t want to do this, ask us right away to leave. It’s perfectly fine. I don’t want to put you under any pressure. I myself too am not in favour of this so-called traditional approach of tea-meets or whatever they are called. It was a surprise for me when you agreed for one. I was intrigued by you.”
And she leaned over to see the cups.
“Dear, you need to add a fresh tea-bag in those cups; the existing ones are old now and would soak no more. It’s time you do so.” She winked at Surekha and left the kitchen.
It was a Sunday morning. Surekha put water in the kettle to boil. This time she did not make an estimate. She had mastered it by now. A fellow walked into the kitchen and hugged her.
“Happy anniversary, Rekha.” He said.
“Happy anniversary, hubby.” She replied.
“Where’s my tea?”
“Will be ready in a while. Where is mum?”
“She is sitting in the balcony, going through the pictures of your last month’s dance performance. She called up mausi atleast thrice today to thank her for the prints and to say how beautiful you looked in them. She is your biggest fan.”
Surekha blushed and switched off the kettle.
“You know I have always wondered what did she tell you in the kitchen when we came to meet you the first time. I have asked her so many times now but she will never tell me.”
“It’s nothing.” Surekha replied. “She just taught me to make the perfect tea—something that should be fresh, soothing, and which easily blends in without excessive soaking.”
This entry is a part of the "Surf Excel Soak No More" Contest at Indiblogger.
Picture credits: Carmen De Bruijn's picture @ 123rf.com