Tea with Auntie: a poem

Tea with Auntie

Sip some chai, Auntie ji,

I’ve made it sweet and strong.

Folding your paan with stained fingertips,

you hum some Sindhi song.

.

Enthroned on a sofa swaddled in plastic,

A brown and fleshy sultana.

You smack your lips with relish,

While gulping down some khaana.

.

The smell of musk and talcum powder

clings to soft rolls of cellulite,

You dunk cake rusks into your chai,

slowly slurping between every bite.

.

Eat some more, beti. You’re far too thin.

Don’t waste it! Jaan, that’s a terrible sin.

Take some more rice, I’ll have some more tea.

Two sugars. Don’t forget elaichi.

.

One white hair protrudes from your chin,

Your belly-laughs move the earth,

One glistening tongue wags as you talk,

but I’m transfixed by that mighty girth.

.

You’re magnificently, fantastically round,

And anything but silent and shy,

Globs of orange spit hit the dish…

Bullseye.

.

You can be anything you want to be,

from paediatrics to oncology,

Geriatrics, cardiology…

(anything but gynecology)

.

Spill the chai, Auntie ji,

It’s bitter and it’s strong.

Add masala to your words, plenty of it,

But I promise to play along.

.

Auntie, your hands can’t sew anymore,

so you sow the seeds of scandal.

Those hands tremble, but I know you’ve walked

A pilgrimage in those sandals.

.

I’ve tried the rose water and haldi so often,

To soften, to lighten my skin,

You see, Auntie, I’m incurable.

It’s a war I just don’t think I’ll win.

.

Don’t worry, my little farishta,

I’ll find you a suitable rishta.

I know a nice boy, a very good catch,

You should get married — you’d make a fine match!

.

My rotis are more square than round,

(I’ll never find love, I think)

And I want a husband who can cook,

While I make my money through my ink.

.

Drink your chai, Auntie ji,

You’re stubborn and you’re strong.

But, maybe, many moons from now,

I’ll be singing the same song.

.

Chai = tea
Ji = a term of respect
Paan = betel leaf, stains saliva when chewed
Sultana = queen
Khaana = food
Beti = daughter, term of endearment
Jaani = my dear/darling

Elaichi = cardamom
Masala = mixed spices
Haldi = turmeric powder

Farishta = angel
Rishta = marriage proposal
Roti = flat bread

chai and flowers

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