Disappearing Act

My father made the early morning tea, a vigorous, wake-up decoction. Everyday.

Fill a saucepan with water from the UV-purification apparatus.

Don’t leave it on the stove too long; it makes the oxygen boil away and the tea taste flat. Is that a scientific explanation? All I know is freshly boiled, not over-boiled.

Assemble the cups, sugar, milk. The ceramic teapot.

 Image by the author

Image by the author

A splash of hot water to rinse and warm the pot. Don’t try scrubbing the stains off. It give the tea a detergent flavor.

Lipton Red Label. Yellow Label will do too. No pale, high grown varieties. A teaspoon-full per person.  

Pour in the boiling water. Put the lid on. Wrap the teapot. A tea cosy? Too dainty, too tight, pulls the lid off. Use a kitchen towel.

Wait for seven minutes. Yes, seven. Gives you time to warm the milk, step out on the verandah, think. Longer is fine, if you like it strong.

Now I make the tea. It is weak and dissatisfactory, not steeped long enough. I don’t want time to think.

We drink it by my father’s bed. The bed is low, fitted with wheels and stand-up sides, and has a mattress covered in layers of plastic protection. Mostly he is still, but every now and then, he flings himself about and the bed slides. The teak case that houses mementos of my parents’ life shakes with the impact. Behind the glass doors of the case, the jointed mobile segments of the papier-mâché dancer with arm outstretched jiggle back and forth, the chipped, yellow finger pointing.  

Were he with me, we would have laughed.


- Indira Chandrasekhar, a scientist turned fiction writer founded the magazine Out of Print, an online platform for short fiction connected to the Indian subcontinent. Her short stories have appeared, among other places, in Far Enough East, rkvry, Eclectica and The Little Magazine, and have won awards and been shortlisted, most notably in the Mslexia shortstory competitions. She is the co-editor of the anthology, Pangea, Thames River Press, 2012. Links to her published work may be found on her blog, indi-cs.