Can you taste the tea?

Twin towers fall down. A small town in Southern India. I am in the computer lab of my college, helping my classmate with her coding. We have tea later in our college canteen.

Your people did it.

She speaks in a gentle voice. But it sounds accusatory. I sip my tea in a steel tumbler. The tea is hot with milk and sugar. Perfect according to my tea drinking standards. I cannot taste it today. For I am half embarrassed and half indignant.

I do not say anything. I am not sure if I smile. At one point I used to give out apologetic smiles on hearing about bad news. It was a weird manner of reacting. I had nothing to apologise about today. 

I had often accompanied this friend on the visits to her chosen place of worship. Barefoot on the sweltering granite floors.

I don’t wear a scarf. My classmates in my Masters course remember me years later, only as the muslim girl.

I go to a shop to buy scarves for my travel to the States. It will be freezing in January when I go. The shopkeeper tells me that this patterned black and white one, is a scarf used by Muslim women. I probably do not look like one, in a sea of black burkas.

Who are my people? Where do I belong? Do I need to explain something?

Our college hostel room. I have a splitting headache. My non Muslim friends gather with tea in a thermos and the lunch they saved for me. I don’t mind that the tea is terrible, watered down and too sweet. I break my Ramadan fast.

My office cafeteria. We are having tea and Irish scones. The scones are lovely with all the butter. The television mutely blares news on the Paris shooting. The ladies condemn the violence.

No one refers to my people but I can’t taste my tea once more.

I am reading Orientalism by Edward Said on the holiday. My reading pace is choppy, for visiting relatives and listening to glad tidings and the never ending grievances is more important. The call to prayer has started and my niece asks us to put away our mobile phones. 

The website Joojoo Azad has a series ongoing, a reading club of sorts called #BecauseWeveRead. The following story is a contribution to their #BecauseWeWrite.


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