She opened the door for us, immaculately dressed in a crisp blue cotton sari, neatly pleated at her shoulder. Her silver gray hair tied as a bun at the nape of her neck. Her smile was warm and maternal.
She led us into a living room through a long narrow corridor. The house, an old Victorian house, was sparkling clean, organized and extremely quiet. In the living room, besides two large bookshelves and the cane furniture, there was a dark mahogany writing desk. A formal writing desk with pens, sheets of papers, more books and an ivory colored table lamp.
After having made us comfortable in the living room, she proceeded to the kitchen to make tea. My mother offered to help. There was a girl for assistance too. But our hostess insisted she did not need help for making a pot of tea yet. “I am not that old, I make wonderful tea.” A little while later, she came out of the kitchen carrying a wooden tray with fine china cups and saucers, a handmade tea cozy over a teapot, shiny teaspoons and an array of cookies.
I sat there looking at her pouring the tea, gently dropping in the sugar cubes and adding a splash of cream to the fine china cups. She had a smile that never ceased and you could tell she loved her cuppa. As she stirred the sugar cubes in the cups, she offered me the cookies and asked, “Do you drink tea yet?” I was only 12 at the time, still not quite in the “tea drinking” age. I politely said no, though the aroma from the Darjeeling tea that had filled the room was simply irresistible. Decades later I still have a vivid memory of that aroma.
A memory of my mother’s aunt living by herself at the age of 83, so full of life, so positive and happy about everything around her, a memory of her affection in every single cuppa that she made that evening, her huge collection of books, her fondness for writing and her writing desk. She had seen my desire to sit at her desk and had let me sit there, allowing me to use her fountain ink pen and paper to scribble a little something while she enjoyed her tea and caught up with my mother.
Sitting at that desk, that little girl in me had dreamt that day that when I get old, I will have a home like this with a library of my own, have my tea, steeped just right in the finest china and have a writing desk where I would sit and write all day.
As we bid goodbye to her that day, the first and only time we had met, she had said to me “You like to write, I see. Always write for yourself. “ I understand that better today than I did that evening.
Story and Picture Credit : Piya Mukherjee