• Antara Basu

THE ROADSIDE TEA STALL

I gulped my Chai, the way Van Gogh swallowed absinthe.

In the tea glass of the roadside stall,

I could tell the Adrak from Elaichi,

The way an alcoholic discriminates Sauvignon from Merlot.

As if they were women born of patriarchal wombs.

A French kiss, of the rim and the lip,

Told me stories better than my grandfather

recited self-composed poems; to put me sleep.

The tea glass of the roadside stall,

It spoke of the girl who stopped by,

For a cup of her favourite Adrak ki Chai.

Each day on her way to work,

The girl with a scar on her neck

Of an acid attack that missed her face.

Told me about the old man who loved his cup of tea,

Masala chai with a hint of lemon,

Once at dawn, another at dusk.

The old man with Alzheimer’s who painted the valley,

For he never wanted to forget; the home he had to flee.

It talked about the boy who drowned his anger

In a cup of sweetened Elaichi Chai each afternoon after classes

The boy who studied medicine;

But breathed Shakespeare and Fitzgerald.

Just as beautiful, just as damned.

For he dreamt of prose, his parents of physicians.

And the tea glass of the roadside stall.

Spoke about me; the poet, the writer,

Who stole lives,

And weaved them through words of his own.

Sold stolen stories, anecdotes and tales.

As I sipped on my bittersweet coffee.