Reverie at Tea

“Chug chug” rumbles the train. “Cluck cluck” protest the rails as the heavy wheels roll on them. “Right-ho, Jeeves” lies open beside. All is dark. There is a gentle zephyr. Restful. Nice, cool. There is a lull. Then there is light. Not bright, dim. Soothing, not intrusive. Somewhere in a forest. A bunch of stripes appears, stays and goes. Another comes, jumps across the track, stalks, walks and leaves. Blood rushes. A bigger bunch of stripes arrives. Heart pops. She walks towards me, comes close. I tighten up. She comes closer. Enthralling. I stare. She stares. I gasp. She comes closer. “Dip chaaai lelo, dip chaai” screams the chaiwala. “Right-ho, Jeeves” is still beside me.

I crawl into bed. The blanket is cold. The pillow is cold. The bed is cold.  I curl up for warmth. The temperature rises slowly. I’m thankful. My eyebrows relax. All is dark. There is a lull. A bunch of stripes is there. A cheeky little cute thing. She’s sitting on the road. Her eyes are platinum, body golden. Beautiful. She rises, sashays, approaches. Deadly. She draws closer. I tighten up. She advances. Breathtaking. I can hear her footsteps now. The heart throbs. The pulse races. She nears me. “Good morning, sir; aapka chai!” comes the wake-up call. I mentally swat him. Like a mosquito. The cold blanket’s still over me.

We have chai at Hardia. Warm and refreshing but my mind’s at sea. It is somewhere else that I want to be. Looking for tigers that fill me with glee. I prod, I coax, I hasten. We haul butt. We roll, we progress. We pass a party of workers. We round a bend. We go straight. A bunch of stripes is there. Sitting on the road. She watches us. Hearts pop. Bodies pop. We approach. She disappears. We approach. She reappears. On a mound. She watches us. Blood rushes. She descends, she walks. Towards us. I stiffen up. She draws closer. Throat goes dry. She walks right up to me. Sits. Palms are sweaty. Stares. Heads are heavy. Walks away. Another bunch of stripes arrives. They meet and rise. They frolic and play. “Cut cut cut” goes the camera. She turns away, walks a distance. He stays. We’re curious. He crouches. We know what. He winds up. We anticipate. He launches, lunges. Charges. Then he…“Chai banaadoo, sir?” rings the vendor’s plea. The picture says it’s real, but was it a reverie?

One Comment Add yours

  1. This is so enthralling. I know how it was. And I know it was real. But the experience is so skillfully described that I had goosebumps reading it. The surrealism is just overwhelming. This is, I believe, one of your best write-ups. So refreshing.


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