A communal ritual and smells from my mother’s home

It’s been a while that I left my parent’s home. I miss them. I miss them a lot. Sometimes on Sunday afternoons, when I am just hanging out by myself, like I am doing today, I imagine what must be going on in my parent’s household, that now just consists of 2 old people.

It’s 3 pm right now. So another hour to go. Both my old parent now have the luxury to take an afternoon nap after a full life of very hard work of bringing us up and providing for everything we ever needed and more. Well, anyways, so my mother will probably be the first one to stir open her eyes. She’ll reach out across the bed and give my dad a nudge. He’ll continue to snore. She’ll get irritated. She’ll get up. She’ll go to the kitchen. She’ll put 2 cups of water to boil and some ‘elaichi’ in a steel pan that she has probably been using for 15+ years. She tells me this with pride. There is no stain on the steel. No tell-tale brown marks of tea left to boil on a high flame. It is always scrubbed clean if that ever happens. But the handle is gone. So she uses a pair of tongs to handle the vessel.

My father will still be snoring. Everything is calm in the Patodia household.

My mom takes some snacks out to go with the tea. She takes out her big round tray. She puts 2 cups, the box of snacks, papa’s sugar free, 2 spoons on the tray. Next she adds the tea leaves into the water that is boiling by now. She walks up to my father again. By this time she is fully awake. She is purposeful. She more than nudges him and use her voice simultaneously to wake him up. My father gets up with a start, is a little upset, and immediately asks her if he can get some tea. She tell him nonchantly – “already on it’s way”. Walks back to the kitchen. Now adds milks to the tea and gives it another boil. Strains and pours the tea out in a kettle, places it on the tray and comes back to the room.

The tray is place on the bed. My father is propped against his round pillow. Awake by now. And both of them enjoy a quiet tea together.

When I am home, I try to always capture that whiff of boiling tea coming from the kitchen. Our conversations over the cups of tea. Yes, there are multiple rounds. As much as I try I can never re-create the taste of that tea. But Whenever I think of them at tea-time, I can conjure up that smell immediately.

I’ve come to understand that some foods taste the way they do because of the people we have it with.