Chai simmers in a rusty saucepan; cardamom and cloves bobbing around the brown liquid. Parathas twirl around, floating on ghee in their large frying pan. A meaty hand suddenly picks up the saucepan and forces the chai through a blackened sieve and into a wet cup taken fresh from a bucket of soapy water, releasing a cloud of steam into the cold air. Greasy tongs bang twice to intrude into the frying pan before picking up a browning paratha and tossing it upside down into the scalding fat.

You lean back into the plastic Boss chair, it’s flimsy hind legs pressing into the mud as rain drums on the straw roof. Water drops plop into puddles of muddy water as the people around you chatter, gossip, and laugh. Someone behind you mutters a few remarks in a language you do not understand and then bursts into laughter. A greasy newspaper below your gleaming paratha is brought atop a green plastic plate, even more feeble than the chair you sit on and placed on the comparatively sturdy plastic table in front of you, next to the boiling brown tea in its tiny cup.

You rip a little piece from the crispy, light brown disc and moisture bursts out, vaporizing and mixing with the more concentrated gray air above the teacup. The scalding piece of bread pulses heat into your fingers; pushes them away and drops back onto Nawaz Sharif’s bald head, now a shiny dark orb from all the absorbed grease.

A cold breeze passes through your bone and you shiver. Your fingers instinctively reach for the chai and curl around the cup, staying there for a while and then picking it up. Your lips are pulled as your hand comes toward them and then wrap around the smooth white ceramic rim. You pull in with your tongue ahead, the tea mixing with your saliva and releasing the perfect balance of saccharin and spice. The blend of flavors spreads throughout your mouth, tingling each one of your taste buds.

You set the teacup down and wrap your russet woolen cloak a bit tighter and reach for the piece of paratha you had ripped before. Dipped in the creamy tea, the bread soaks in all the sweet, bitter, and umami. You pull it out and toss it in your mouth. The crispy outer layer breaks under the pressure of your teeth which now dig into the doughy core as the Pathan’s Chai oozes onto your tongue. You finally swallow it; sunshine in your stomach.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Salt in tea? That’s a first 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. sal354 says:

      Haha yeah, it’s a staple in the mountainous northern areas of Pakistan where the temperature remains far below freezing for most of the year


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