The Chaibandi

By: Harika Bommana

Hollins University, Virginia USA

The sun projects its powerful rays; the proud God can never conceal his strength. Drops of sweat flow down the necks of brown men, hitting the ignoble road made for loathing, taunting the struggle and hardship of their small but honorable Dukhan.

The aroma of potato and onion-stuffed irani samosas fills the air, sizzling its way from a rusty old pan of boiling oil. When the samosas reach a golden brown, the men crunch into their skins, satisfying their taste buds as they mourn to the richness of a cheap taste that echoes their desi souls.

Piquant spices and herbs fill the air like a mystical spell, enhancing the dancing cinnamon, dominating black leaves in a mud pot like the dramatic shows once performed for ancient rulers. The old chaiwala showcases one of his many talents by pouring the masala tea from one glass to another as he sings ‘chai’ like the karnatic raghas.

The rusty metal box, clinging to every century-old wire within, plays romantic Hindi songs as giggling girls play and sing along in their school dresses, hair neatly combed and oiled, tied in two braids with red ribbons. The chaiwala’s wrinkled wife feels nostalgic as she watches them through her wooden window, smiling and humming to herself as she chops vegetables in a steel plate.

At this moment–this very moment–my heart is overwhelmed with pride. Looking at the sky and everything around me, my foot lands on this sacred ground, and I have never felt richer.

I am home.