Fiction

Three Cups of Tea

by Rrashima Swaarup Verma 

The early morning sunlight was pushing its way through the edges of the thick drapes. Divya sighed and opened her eyes. Her sleep had been fitful and she didn’t feel rested. Glancing at the clock, she snuggled back into bed. Five minutes more. It was only a quarter to seven and she didn’t have to be at her computer before nine. Ever since her company had announced that everyone would be working from home for the next couple of months at least, her mornings hadn’t been frenetically crazy like before. Now instead of waking up promptly at six o’clock every morning and rushing around like a headless chicken to make the Metro in time, she could set the alarm for seven instead and even get in a leisurely shower and breakfast before she settled down. The strange thing was that she always woke up before the alarm went off these days. Perhaps her body clock didn’t understand the lockdown nor the work-from-home policy.

At seven o’clock, she threw off her summer dohar and got out of bed. Stuffing her feet into slippers, she drew back the curtains and unlocked the window. The end of April in Delhi usually sees the offset of spring and the arrival of summer but the air outside was cool and crisp at this early hour. Divya stuck her head out and inhaled deep gulps. In a little while, the temperature would rise. Not that it mattered much these days since most people were going to stay indoors anyway.

By seven thirty, she was sitting in the living room, sipping black coffee. Her mobile phone was in her right hand and a small smile was playing on her lips as she checked her messages. Her fiancé, Sameer, had sent her a link to a song he wanted her to listen to and The Soul Sisters group was also up and at it. It was a close-knit group of seven girlfriends from college and they’d managed to keep in touch amazingly well despite the circumstances. They chatted on the group, sent each other the usual health tips, recipes and jokes and even did a group call a couple of times a week. Of course, it wasn’t the same as meeting, how could it be? In fact, truth be told, Divya hadn’t admitted to anyone how sorely she’d missed meeting her friends, colleagues and fiancé since the lockdown had been announced.

The sound of shuffling feet shifted her attention to the balcony. The water pipe was turned on and a gentle spray of water aimed at the tulsi plant in the corner. She always watered that one first. It was her favorite. Divya craned her neck slightly to get a better view. Her mother was dressed in the comfortable tracks and t-shirt she always wore in the morning and her hair was loose around her shoulders. It used to be dark brown with a sprinkling of grey but had been completely white for a couple of years now. The face was still unlined and youthful though, thanks to genetics, or at least that’s what her mother claimed. Divya suspected it had more to do with regular exercise and a thrice-a-week beauty regimen of sandalwood and rose water. A rattle of pots from the kitchen told Divya that her father was now awake as well. He always made himself a glass of warm lemon water with chia seeds before he started his day.

They’d been married for over thirty years, her parents. They’d actually had a love marriage which was rather unusual for those times but then nothing had been usual about their relationship anyway. Completely, unconditionally, eternally in love. That was how their friends described them. Despite being busy in their respective careers, they unfailingly managed to prioritize their relationship and make time for each other. Then when Divya was born, people jokingly remarked that they were like the three bears from the fairy tale. Papa Bear, Mamma Bear and Baby Bear. The only difference was that there was no place for Goldilocks in this tale. It was almost as though the three of them spoke a language that was known only to them, as if they shared secrets that no fourth person could be a part of. Divya remembered her early childhood as a very happy time, filled with joyful moments and beautiful memories. She particularly remembered the Sunday brunches, it was always the same restaurant, sometimes even the same table if they were lucky. So much so, that it had almost become a tradition over the years.

As time passed, all of them got busier. Her father became more ambitious and his work got more demanding. He started traveling all the time and was working almost like a person possessed. Divya was now older and her life had suddenly turned into a whirlwind of friends, school, music classes, dance classes, basketball, ballet. Her mother got lonelier and sought company and comfort in writing, friends and an NGO that she started volunteering with. The result was that even though they still loved each other as much as ever, suddenly they weren’t doing the same things anymore. They’d still try and go out for their customary Sunday brunches together but as time passed, the easy banter and effortless conversations gave way to stilted silences and awkward hesitation. Sad though it was, they all seemed to be leading separate lives now. And it carried on that way. The disappointments and regrets just kept piling up. Her father’s work didn’t let up, her mother stayed busy with her writing and the NGO and Divya’s life was fuller than ever before. Expectedly, the day she turned 25 and announced that she was in love with someone and wanted to get married, they knew they’d missed the boat. Her parents had smiled at her wistfully and given their blessing.

She’d just got engaged to Sameer when the lockdown happened. In the beginning, she hadn’t realized how indefinite this whole situation would be and later as the days turned into weeks and the weeks threatened to turn into months, she’d gone through her share of loneliness and anxiety that seemed to be becoming a common side-effect of the lockdown. It was no wonder then that more and more people were now organizing virtual social circles and safe groups where lonely, anxious souls could find an outlet. Even the daily newspaper had started a special counselling column for people who wanted to share their woes. Thankfully for Divya, her work as a business consultant and a supportive group of friends who regularly called and messaged each other had kept her going and she’d managed to pull herself together. Sadly, despite living under the same roof, she didn’t really know how her parents felt about the situation. All that she was aware of was that her father was doing most of his work via Skype video conferencing now and her mother had started a new column for a women’s magazine.

The beep of a message on her mobile snapped Divya out of her reverie. Instead of grabbing the mobile and getting engrossed in it like she usually did, she left it on the table and rose from the couch. Her mother had finished watering the plants and was just closing the balcony door.

‘Morning dear! Did you sleep well?’ she asked.

Divya nodded and her mother smiled. ‘Ranjana has made poha for breakfast.’ Ranjana was the family cook. ‘It’s ready whenever you want it,’ added her mother then. They all ate breakfast at different times. Her father was usually already at the office and her mother at her yoga class when Divya ate and left for work. But there was no office and no yoga class now. There were no packed suitcases waiting in a corner, no flights to catch, no weekends which were too busy with external commitments to make time for each other. They were all here together. Even as the thought crossed her mind, she couldn’t help wondering why it had taken so long. Well, better late than never right? Divya’s eyes wandered to the table, set for breakfast. Three bowls of poha. Just like the three bowls of porridge in the fairy tale. The first bowl had chili and lemon slices on the side, the second had a topping of crunchy peanuts and the third, a generous sprinkling of chopped-up coriander. They all had different tastes. But they were still one family. Like the three bears from the story.

‘How about I make us all some tea?’ suggested Divya suddenly.

Her mother who had already started walking toward her bedroom stopped. Turning slowly, she cocked her head to one side. ‘Tea?’

‘Yes, since for once none of us are in a rush to go anywhere. I know how much Dad likes my ginger tea. It’ll go well with the porridge….I mean the poha.’

‘That sounds like a wonderful idea,’ smiled her father who had come in from the kitchen. He put his glass of lemon water on the table and held his arms out to his daughter. Divya could hardly see him for tears were welling up in her eyes. They hugged each other and then pulled Divya’s mother into their embrace.

‘Three cups of tea for the three bears,’ she murmured as they parted, still holding on to each other’s hands.

‘Coming right up!’ Divya smiled and hurried into the kitchen. She was back five minutes later holding a tray with three steaming cups of aromatic ginger tea.

‘Well, maybe this lockdown isn’t going to be so hard after all.’ Divya’s father smiled at his wife and daughter.

‘For all you know, it might even prove to be a blessing in disguise,’ added Divya. She placed the cups of tea on the table next to the bowls and the three of them sat down to have breakfast together.

About the Author: 

Rrashima Swaarup Verma is a writer and poet,  her works have appeared in several leading magazines and literary publications. She is currently working as a Senior Vice President with a leading, global business research and strategic consulting firm.

2 Comments

  1. Punam Sharmah

    Lovely story. Enjoyed reading it . Covid 19 indeed has a silver lining

  2. This is such a moving story. It went to my heart. Simple, endearing and written by someone with a tremendous understanding of human nature. I hope we will get to read more stories by this author!.

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