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.
“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
cannot get. Just like how snow can wish for summer, but never actually
witness it (Lockdown bored him enough to binge Disney movies, too.)
“Found it!” Jivika’s voice breaks Rohan through his trance, causing him to jerk
back to the real world. “Found the recipe to cure your cold. You’ll be fit in no
He doesn’t know what he has done to deserve a caring friend like her.
“Okay, so!” He can half imagine Jivika pushing her spectacles up her nose as
she flips through something, a book perhaps. “This is the recipe for my special
masala chai. All you need to do is to get some mil--”
Rohan tunes her out, already having read and listened to the recipe hundreds
of times. Keeping the phone by his ear, he moves to the window that looks out
to the world. The streets are deathly quiet — not even a stray dog barks.
Deafening silence looms everywhere. There is hardly any interaction among
people; they all sit locked away in gilded cages they call homes (some people
don’t even have homes, to begin with). And yet... the cases of the virus rise
exponentially every 24 hours.
In all honesty, it is maddening.
“And you’re not listening. Great.”
“I’m sorry,” Rohan apologizes. “I didn’t mean to. I’m just...not in the mood, Jiv.”
“I don’t know. Maybe I’m just tired of... you know, this Corona and this entire
talking over the phone thing. I need my normal life back,” Rohan admits. No
matter how much he hates Corona, the small virus has taught him the true
meaning of life. It has taught him not to take relationships for granted. It has
made him realize the actual value of human connections.
Technology can only reduce the gaps between people; physical interaction, no
matter how less, is needed to plug those gaps.
There is a sudden sound of the call getting disconnected. Taken aback,
Rohan looks at his phone. He stares awkwardly at the blinking 01:30:29
before reality catches up to him.
Jivika just cut the call on his face. That is something she would never do...
unless she’s mad.
Rohan lets out a curse as he runs his hand through his hair. He was just
pissed off; he hadn’t wanted to make her mad. Facepalming at his idiocy, he
quickly pulls up Jivika’s Whatsapp thread to send her an apology. But before
his fingers can type anything, there is a notification of an incoming video call.
He hits the “Accept” button. It takes a few seconds to connect before Jivika is
on the screen. She’s standing in her kitchen, the phone propped up against
some support. Her hair is pulled up in a messy bun, her spectacles resting on
her face like they always do. She’s wearing her favorite Imagine Dragons t-
shirt, and grinning at him widely.
At least she is not mad (or maybe she planned to murder him, but that’s
“Rohan!” She speaks in a bright voice that manages to bring a smile to his
face. “What are you doing sitting on the couch? Get to the kitchen, let’s make
masala chai together!”
“To-together? Right now?”
He is stupefied for a moment, but her excitement is infectious. Soon, Rohan
finds himself in the kitchen, Jivika’s chatter echoing in his ears. He crushes
the ginger as she does the same, all the while throwing instructions (and
sometimes, cloves) at him. The water is boiling with cloves and tulsi, and the
rich aroma has already chased half of his sickness away. Jivika’s bubbliness
has vaporized the other half.
Fifteen minutes later, Rohan is back on the couch, a steaming cup of masala
chai held carefully in his hands. Across from him, behind the screen, sits
Jivika, her cup of chai in her hand. They both inhale the aroma and then take
a sip together. The hot liquid seeps down his parched throat, the instant relief
causing him to sigh in delight.
“So?” Jivika asks teasingly, and Rohan looks up at her from the rim of his cup.
“The masala chai chased your cold away. Was I right or was I right?”
“I will pretend I didn’t hear you.”
“Whatever sails your boat, man,” she giggles, and he cannot help but smile.
They share a peaceful silence, basking in each other’s company. It is not
exactly like the past times, but it the closest thing to the normalcy Rohan
desires. And he... likes it.
“Hey, Jiv?” He whispers, afraid to break the moment. She looks up at him.
“Thanks for your company, your chai, and basically... everything.”
“You didn’t have to say it, yaar.”
He smiles, she smiles back. And just like that, their friendship rekindles over a
hot chuski of masala chai.
Written by: Unnati Goyal