Over A Hot Cup of Chai

“I am going to murder you.”

“Hey, hey! Easy, girl, easy,” Rohan laughs, trying to calm his best friend down,

who’s on the other side of the line. “I told you, I want to live to tell my future

kids about how I survived the ‘Rona times!”

“And you need to take care of your health to see those years, you dolt!” Rohan

pulls the phone away from his ear at her high-pitched voice, making a face.

Putting the call on speaker, he plops himself on the couch. The sudden

movement is not kind on his headache, and he barely manages to suppress a


“You know,” Rohan says in a teasing voice. “I love that suggestion where you

plan to murder me, then resurrect me back only to murder me again.”

“Dude, don’t change the topic.”

“Jiv, don’t be such a mood kil-ACHOO!"


“See! This is why I tell you to take care of your health!” Jivika chides him

again, and he winces. The room is swimming, his head is pounding, and his

nose is too blocked to allow him to focus on what she is saying.

He sneezes again. There is, thankfully, some respite.

“You took medicated steam?” Jivika asks, her voice laced with concern. Rohit

nearly nods in reply before realizing he is over a voice call.

“Yes mom,” he chokes out, hating the scratchiness of his throat.

“Saltwater gargles?”

“Done. No help there, too.”

There is an affirmative hum from her side, followed by the click of a tongue.

“Bet you haven’t tried the special masala chai I always made for our group,

whenever we went camping.”

Truth be told, he hasn’t. He decides to remain silent.

“Your silence speaks your answer for you, Mr. Arora. I knew it!” Jivika

proclaims in a winning tone laced with accusation. “I was right about you not

trying the only thing that can protect you from this pandemic.”

“It is not the only thing,” he fights back weakly, despite knowing she is not

going to buy that argument.

“But it is certainly one of the best, right?”

He doesn’t answer. He is sick of being treated like a big baby, and he tells her


“Not taking care of yourself is acting like a big baby, dude. Wait a moment...”

Rohan holds the phone by his ear, waiting. He hears the shuffling sounds and

the muffled curses muttered over the line, and despite the pain in his head, a

smile makes its way onto his lips.

Ever since the world went into lockdown, life has been nothing but boring.

There is only so much he can do sitting at home. He has binged Netflix, has

brewed Dalgona coffee over ten times and has revived all his past hobbies

(every single one of them). Mom and dad, siblings and cousins, the mausiji

from Allahabad, the fufaji who's stuck in London amidst the pandemic; Rohan

has talked to them all. He has participated in online Antaksharis, has played

Call of Duty with random people, and even has had fun Karaoke nights with


And yet he feels empty inside. As if something is amiss.

He knows it is actual human interaction he craves, and it is the one thing he