Tea with Auntie: a poem

Tea with Auntie

Sip some chai, Auntie ji,

I’ve made it sweet and strong.

Folding your paan with stained fingertips,

you hum some Sindhi song.


Enthroned on a sofa swaddled in plastic,

A brown and fleshy sultana.

You smack your lips with relish,

While gulping down some khaana.


The smell of musk and talcum powder

clings to soft rolls of cellulite,

You dunk cake rusks into your chai,

slowly slurping between every bite.


Eat some more, beti. You’re far too thin.

Don’t waste it! Jaan, that’s a terrible sin.

Take some more rice, I’ll have some more tea.

Two sugars. Don’t forget elaichi.


One white hair protrudes from your chin,

Your belly-laughs move the earth,

One glistening tongue wags as you talk,

but I’m transfixed by that mighty girth.


You’re magnificently, fantastically round,

And anything but silent and shy,

Globs of orange spit hit the dish…



You can be anything you want to be,

from paediatrics to oncology,

Geriatrics, cardiology…

(anything but gynecology)


Spill the chai, Auntie ji,

It’s bitter and it’s strong.

Add masala to your words, plenty of it,

But I promise to play along.


Auntie, your hands can’t sew anymore,

so you sow the seeds of scandal.

Those hands tremble, but I know you’ve walked

A pilgrimage in those sandals.


I’ve tried the rose water and haldi so often,

To soften, to lighten my skin,

You see, Auntie, I’m incurable.

It’s a war I just don’t think I’ll win.


Don’t worry, my little farishta,

I’ll find you a suitable rishta.

I know a nice boy, a very good catch,

You should get married — you’d make a fine match!


My rotis are more square than round,

(I’ll never find love, I think)

And I want a husband who can cook,

While I make my money through my ink.


Drink your chai, Auntie ji,

You’re stubborn and you’re strong.

But, maybe, many moons from now,

I’ll be singing the same song.


Chai = tea
Ji = a term of respect
Paan = betel leaf, stains saliva when chewed
Sultana = queen
Khaana = food
Beti = daughter, term of endearment
Jaani = my dear/darling

Elaichi = cardamom
Masala = mixed spices
Haldi = turmeric powder

Farishta = angel
Rishta = marriage proposal
Roti = flat bread

chai and flowers

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