• Chrysanthemum Chronicles

The White Cup! by Nandita De nee Chatterjee



It was searing hot!

An old small mug,

placed with a thump

on the bed tray.


'Tea? Didn't I have tea?'

'No, Dida'.


A shaking hand

lifts the cup to her lips.

A shudder

and she puts it down.


The plane circled in the air.

The young lady touched

up her lips.

A waft of perfume

floats in the twilight.


She quickly pulls out the tray.

He'll be home in an hour.

The military truck will come home

and the dashing, young officer will jump down.

Suitcase, bedding...

thrown to the ground.


She didn't know till just about now

that he would be coming.

They never did, the wives!

Air Force has its rules.

Military wives had their tea alone

most morns.


The cups were laid.

The kettle was put on.


Dad and Mom

sat in the balcony,

a while later,

savouring the Darjeeling.


A man of few words,

he listened to the chatter,

animated,

two troublesome schoolgirls,

their unruly ways.

That bad fall,

the hospital trips.

The films screened in the Mess.


He savoured the stories,

sipping his tea.

Ah! Tea at home!

A far cry from the Mess mugs!

The flavour of tea bushes

in the cold Darjeeling hills.

The prized Makaibari.

The delicate, fine bone china cup,

white, with a tilted gold- rimmed handle.

It was good to be back.


Many, many postings...

many isolated stations.

Life essentially the same.

Challenges changed.


Coming home at dusk

I could see them sitting

from afar.

A rainbow encircled

the horizon.

The distance between the lawn and the distant hills

stretched unendingly.

Unfettered.

A wooden gate somewhere in between

read

'Trespassers will be prosecuted.'


I joined them for tea.

Some things had changed.

Sister was in college.

I wasn't given tea though.

But teatime snacks were always good.

Mom was a super cook.


The place was Assam.

It rained incessantly.

Prickly grass sprang up like dragons.

The neighbouring hills

were laced with tea gardens.

Strong Assam tea.

CTC.


But it was still

Darjeeling in their cups.

Tea at home

never changed.

Mom washed the white set herself.


The honeymoon set.

Made in UK.

Brought for a radiant wife,

waiting through endless days

of solitude, anxiety, fear.


The cup of joy.

Husband home safe.

Togetherness.

Love.

Sharing.


In the meantime

wars were waged.

1962

1965

1971.


Mom kept her memories safe.


Precious journeys of life.

Daughters married.

Grandkids coming home.

Now the family

had tea together.

It was a family thing.


She never gave up the kitchen.

Her specialties rolled out.

Her mentors,

'Woman and Home,'

'Femina'.

A young bride

alone in an Air Force station,

bereft of alternatives,

learning the ways of the kitchen.


I always pictured them such,

sitting together at tea,

the brew perfect,

the brands

Happy Valley,

Lopchu,

Makaibari.

The perfect temperature.

The perfect setting.

Lilies in the vase,

white cane chairs,

a balcony

with Rajnigandha,

pansies, anthirrium

dancing in the breeze.


That same tranquillity,

same We-Time,

stories of pride,

reproach,

anxiety.


I shot some photos,

Mom pouring Dad tea

from the delightful cups

she acquired over the years.

A scene engraved in my mind.

Homecoming after a hard day,

slumping down tired.

The assignment's been tough.

But now I'm home.

In the warmth of an

understanding family.


How I loved those moments.


I rang the bell.

A new face opened the door.

A surly welcome.

I moved around,

switching on the lights.

Dispelling the dark.

Pulling open the curtains.

I stopped at Dad's picture.

I always did.

Crossing the dining room

my eyes fell on the

dainty white tea set.

Clean. Unused of late.


Mom was sitting up,

fresh as a daisy,

evening rituals never missed.

There were flowers

on the dressing table.

A bell at hand

to ring for the attendant.

Television was on.

It usually is.


'Welcome home, baby.'

I squeezed in beside her

on her bed.

She had lost mobility now, for a few years.


'Having tea, Mom,' I smiled.

She grimaced.

'Boiled, not brewed.

No flavour.'


'Never mind,' I said.

'We'll have it together.'


Holding back my tears

I saw the

little printed mug.

Some gift, I think.

A sip

and I shuddered.


A far cry

from the pot

which she made.

No well-laid tea set,

no tasty cupcakes.

Some dejected snacks,

served up carelessly,

by uncaring hands.


I took the girl aside.

Again, I specified

our habits,

our ways.

'But she's old. And unwell,' the girl retorted adamantly.


Mom called,

'don't bother.

It doesn't matter.

This is now my

cup of tea. '



Nandita De nee Chatterjee: Author, Writer & Poet

Writer/freelance journalist/housewife. Formerly with Economic Times. Cover stories and Feature Writer with Statesman, Illustrated Weekly, Economic Times, Telegraph, Times of

India, Femina, Filmfare, Germany Today, Voix Meets Mode, UK, FrontierWeekly, Namaste

Ink, Setu magazine, US, Innsaei International Journal, Plethora,Chrysanthemum Chronicles,

Literatureslight Magazine, Global United Renaissance magazine, Raven Cage Ezine,

Germany, Taifas Literary, Italy, Our Poetry Archives.

Co Author: Big Bang of Non-Fiction, Life in Reverse; 30 Best Poets; Sea; Coffee & Echos; Wrapped Up Feelings; Poetry Planet's Christmas in my Heart , Moonlight; ALS's Kaleidoscope of Asia & Bilingual Anthology of Poems; Poetry Planet's Writers' Haven;

Rewrite the Stars; Love Thy Mother; The Real Hero; Heart of a Poet by innerchildpress; Ashes; Arising from the Dust; Striving for Survival & An Indian Summer by Plethora Blogazine (now Chrysanthemum Chronicles); Poetry Planet's Lockdown Diaries, Born to Dream Winner's Anthology & Words in Motion; Gems II and Gems III by World Pictorial Poetry & Art Forum; Macabre Tales by Chrysanthemum Chronicles; Poetry: Best of 2020 and I Want to Live by Innerchildpress USA; The Sounds of Spring by Silk Road Literature Series, Egypt; Golden Apples of God by World Pictorial Poetry Forum, April 202, The Chocolaty Affairs & Scandals a Coffee Table Book, Volume 1 by Chrysanthemum Chronicles.

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