Archive for tea

Just a Suitcase

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Infinite City, Sacred Geometry with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2012 by javedbabar

Bobby’s shared apartment was on the ground floor, and he rarely had any interaction with people from the upper two floors of the halfway house. They came and went, each in their own wounded world. They said hi and bye, and sometimes smiled, but that was it.

One day a teenage boy was waiting with a large black suitcase. He stood with good posture, and looked ahead but also around. He bit his lips lightly and blinked often; a red scarf around his neck made him seem festive somehow.

“Are you okay there?” asked Bobby.

The boy seemed to be drawn out of a dream world. He blinked more rapidly and shook his head. He said, “Oh yes, thank you. I am waiting for someone to let me into the apartment upstairs.”

“Are you visiting somebody there?” People behaved strangely at the halfway house. Unless they were expecting visitors, they ignored the doorbell. They didn’t want to see people. They were ashamed of being stuck here, not knowing if they were going up or even further down.

“No, I have come to stay here. The agent said to buzz and someone would let me in, but no one is answering.”

“Look, why don’t you wait in our apartment. You can have a cup of tea while you wait.”

The boy said, “Thank you,” and lifted his suitcase. It was clearly very heavy; he hauled it up with both hands.

Bobby said, “What have you got in there? Corpses? Are you a teen serial killer on the run?” He reached over to help him, but the boy reacted with alarm.

He shouted, “No! I will carry it myself!”

Bobby backed off. “I am sorry. Okay, I will open the doors for you.”

The boy hesitated. His shoulders hunched from the effort of holding the suitcase up.

Bobby said, “Look, it was meant to be a joke. I was trying to put you at ease. Please come in. I was a stranger too when I came here. It’s nice when someone welcomes you.”

The boy’s shoulders eased. He said, “Thank you,” and walked forward with the suitcase. It’s got wheels, thought Bobby, why doesn’t he roll it? Strange boy. What’s he got in there – Venetian glass?

The boy looked around the apartment. Again, he bit his lips lightly and blinked often. Bobby made him some tea. “Just take it easy, I’m sure someone will be home soon. We’ll see them approaching the door, and I’ll grab them before they go up. What brings you here? We don’t often have such youthful guests?”

The boy looked down. He felt like crying but he had cried enough already. It was time to be strong now.

It was still had to believe that he was one of the thirty-six Righteous Ones appointed by God. Human life depended on their existence. It wasn’t usually a hereditary role, but his father had died young, and in his last days he had passed on the burden that he said was a blessing, to his son. The suitcase contained an armed nuclear bomb that was wirelessly connected to thirty-five similar devices around the world. The activation of one would trigger all the other devices, and human life would end.

Each righteous person was vital. Each could make or break the world.

Speaking Together

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2012 by javedbabar

Though he was surrounded by fellow workers, Bobby often felt alone at the farm. On his days off he went to visit Alan and Patricia, who he thought of like great-grandparents.

They claimed to have moved to the Lucerne Valley a hundred years ago, and made him feel welcome. The first thing was always a “nice cup of tea”. There were no cold mugs or tea bags for Patricia. She used heated teapots with quilted tea cosies, and bone china cups that were  rich blue with gold patterns, like ones that you saw on antique shows.

Patricia had a special shelf of tea caddies from all over the world. She ran her fingers along the shelf and stopped at the caddy that “spoke” to her. She selected a tea spoon in a similar way and dropped three spoonfuls of loose tea into a teapot, the tea leaves dropping, tinkling and crackling.

“Why do you always ask me how I take my tea?” asked Bobby. “You know I take it with milk and sugar.”

“Well, what if you’ve changed your mind? I don’t want to make assumptions. That’s poor form. It is not the way of taking tea together.”

She says some strange things, thought Bobby. He said, “On the farm, we drink tea with…”

“Never drink the tea on the farm,” she said seriously. “Don’t touch it.”

“But they tell us to. They say it is better than water. It is a healthy…”

She told him again not to drink it, saying it wasn’t what he thought it was.

Alan came in from the garden and said, “Good afternoon, young man! How are you this fine day? Well, I hope. Good, good.”

They took tea together, each adding some milk and one sugar. Alan said, “We’ve monitored the communications in this valley for a hundred years now.”

Bobby had found Alan’s antenna, a wire running through the forest, strung between Arcadian Firs. “At first I manually recorded the few messages sent daily, later by phonograph, then tape deck, digital recorder, and now computer. Everything is stored on hard drives and processed by speech-to-text software, and analysed semiotically.”

So that’s how they spend their time, thought Bobby. They don’t sit around drinking tea all day. They analyse communications. Maybe Alan is a shadowy consultant, working secretly for The Authority.

“But the voice always comes first.” He stopped and looked at Bobby directly. “Am I boring you, or would you like to hear more? You would? Good, good. Now listen to this.” He played a clip of a woman speaking about potato prices. “And listen to this.” It was a man talking about property prices. “Do you note their different frequencies? No? It takes a while to master, and later you can even hear things in what most people call silence.”

He led Bobby to his workshop, filled with electronic equipment. There was a monitor showing green waves reflecting, refracting and diffracting. “See what’s happening? They’re all out of synch. That’s why people never really understand each other. That’s the meaning of the Tower of Babel story.” He pointed to the house. “Patricia and I have spent one hundred years together. We are tuned to the same frequency. We fully understand each other. It is like Eden before the Fall.”

Healthy Natural Beverage

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Organic Farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2012 by javedbabar

Bobby remembered starting work at the farm, but only vaguely. It was possibly a year ago. He used to live in the city; he had a brother there who was married, and parents who were old.

He also had somebody here… a sister, who had a daughter – that’s right! – Naomi, who he enjoyed spending time with. When was the last time he had seen her? He couldn’t recall. He should see her more often, and swore he would do that, but it was hard to find time; he was busy working “Farmtime Fulltime”, as the boss called it. He often snoozed in the forest at lunchtime, but other than that, he rarely left the farm.

He should know his fellow workers better, but he barely knew their names. Beyond “good morning,”, “good afternoon”, and “good night,” they exchanged few words. They worked alone in the fields, and then went to trailers to watch TV. It was a lonely life, but somehow pleasing. It must be, as Bobby had no desire to do anything else.

Beers in town? He had some in the fridge.

A restaurant meal? Why suffer the noise and expense?

Meeting girls? There were plenty on the internet, who were much less trouble than wining and dining a real girl just to get her into bed. Who could be bothered to expend energy on sex anyway? He wasn’t married and wanting kids. What was the point? Pleasure was readily available, if he could be bothered.

Bobby had come to the farm on the WWW programme, a Willing Waterer and Weeder. Though his official working day was twelve hours, he watered and weeded only for 4 hours in the morning and 4 hours at night. That was all he could manage. It was hot thirsty work.

The farmer encouraged them all to keep well hydrated, and there were vintage signs in many places saying Drink Tea. He’d told them that tea was better than water, as it was a healthy natural beverage with vital trace minerals. In the same way that we should eat food containing nutrients, not just empty calories, we should also consume nutritionally enhanced drinks. Their minerals ensured optimal physical functioning.

He didn’t tell them that the tea was Silva Sanguinarus, which had been given to soldiers in European wars. It was an anticonvulsant and sedative, and an anaphrodisiac.

The tea kept them working steadily but reduced their desire to do anything else. It was the perfect dietary supplement for the endless watering and weeding required for industrial organic production. After all, they were only one step away from machines. Right now people were more economical to use but that could change soon. The farmer would then switch from tea to oil.

Alex and Sandra's Teatime

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2012 by javedbabar

“Alex and Sandra?” said Dimpy, trying not to show surprise. Sandra was a tall, red-haired girl, big-boobed and round-faced, with light freckles. Alex was also tall, blonde-haired, with smaller boobs, and a slimmer face and body. Alex was Alexandra. For the first time since she’d started this job, Dimpy was interviewing two women.

Lucerne’s part-time Registrar of Weddings was all for same-sex marriage. Why shouldn’t two people who loved each other be able to join together and create a stable home? God knows that her different-sex marriage had failed.

It wasn’t about gender, it was about adoration. It was simple really – if you adored each other, then things worked out.

Dimpy had admired her husband, liked him, maybe loved him, but had not adored him. When problems started, that was it.

She chatted to Alex and Sandra together, and then sent Sandra out. It was time to grill them one by one, to see if their union was genuine and not some kind of sham.

“When did you meet?” asked Dimpy, fixing her with a stare.

“Online. It was Arcadian Personals.” So she was looking nationally, not just locally. That showed determination.

“Please tell me about your first date.”

“We met for teatime,” said Alex, a little awkwardly. Dimpy hadn’t noticed her green eyes before, how they were flecked with gold. “Lunch is always a rush, you have to get from work to the restaurant, and then back to work. I find that dinner can either be too formal, or a drunken wasted night. There’s always sexual tension, wondering if you should make a move, and if so, how, and when, and whether you’ll regret it.”

She must have had some fun dates, thought Dimpy. Lucky girl.

“At teatime you can just be yourself. There’s no rush, you sit and wait patiently for flavours to infuse. You are participating in a ritual going back thousands of years. It’s different with different cultures of course. English like milk and sugar, Indians use pepper and cardamom, Chinese let the tealeaves unfurl, Japanese admire the cup and teahouse and recite poetry, Russians top up the samovar and sing.”

Dimpy couldn’t help nodding along. She loved teatime too, and hadn’t realized there were so many variations.

Alex continued, the colours of her eyes seeming to swirl and fuse. “So we met up at the Lucerne Valley Hotel for tea. Sandra ordered a Lapsang Souchong that smelled so heady I almost fainted, and I had a Bengali Chai with chilli and ginger. It was delicious.” She looked at Dimpy and said, “Things got hotter after that.”

“What about your second date?” said Dimpy. “Did you manage to have a nice lunch or dinner?”

“It was another teatime.” She beamed at Dimpy. “But this time I was making her morning cuppa.”

Swirling

Posted in Lucerne Village, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2012 by javedbabar

Suzi saw him every morning. The Bakerman arrived at four a.m. looking dreadful. What did he do at nights – stay out drinking and dancing till the small hours? Maybe he was O.K. with less sleep, but Suzi wasn’t. For her to arise before four, she must be in bed by eight p.m. She needed her beauty sleep. What if one day he asked her out on a date? He was only likely to do that if she looked the part. There was the issue of how she would stay awake during the date, but if things progressed well there would be no sleeping; he would clutch and squeeze her till dawn – or opening time if sooner. She could sleep after that.

She watched him unlock the door and switch off the alarm. Once he wasn’t quick enough and it began bleating and flashing, and it looked like he was in a club dancing to a trance tune, the strobing blue light making it seem he was appearing and disappearing. He was her magic Bakerman.

He switched on the lights and the master power switch. Once a light bulb blew, shattering like a phosphoric bomb. What did they make them with now – mercury? It must have spread poison. Or maybe it was just glass fragments. It was a serious thing to happen in a bakery – glass in bread. He closed for the day and hired a specialist cleaner to remove the hidden shards.

He dragged out sacks of flour and measured portions. There was Whole Grain, oat flour, spelt flour, rice flour, rye, and good old fashioned, unrefined, bleached white flour. He used these flours for his breads, bagels, brioches, muffins, tarts, and rolls. He was an old fashioned baker using only bowls and rollers, and of course his hands to knead and punch. She imagined him beating her flesh like bread, not hard, just playfully. Enough to sting her.

Transformation required pain. A minimum of compromise and self-sacrifice and, if you were serious, rituals that caused irreversible harm. Circumcision, scarification, head-shaping, and ear-stretching. Even tattooing, marking you as different and changed forever.

His first round of baking was done by six. Truckers came in as soon as he opened the doors. Sometimes they were waiting already. Beef wanted two muffins and a double-double Americano. Taylor switched between sandwiches and bagels. Nancy loved his brioches, but would settle for tarts. It was a wonder that she kept her figure, being a full time trucker and daily pastry consumer.

Suzi went in at seven daily for a cappuccino and spelt or rice flour muffin. Something relatively healthy. She went again at twelve for a sandwich and smoothie. Her favourites were the turkey breast door stop and strawberry banana fruity. Her third visit daily was at four for tea and cake – Assam and whatever he’d made that day.

The Bakerman was nice to her initially – all welcomes and smiles. But one day she’d mentioned that she was attending a party and asked if he’d like to come along. Well to be precise, she’d asked him to “be her date”. She recalled his look of horror. It was as if the thought was so ridiculous that it had never occurred to him. He recovered quickly but too late for her to remain under any illusions. He clearly found her disgusting.

Suzi never went to the Bakery again. She went cold turkey. This didn’t stop her watching him though. His daily comings and goings. She felt most sad in the afternoons.

She missed his rainbow cake, with red, green, blue and gold, all swirling together. Rainbows were created by sun and rain. His smile and her tears.

She missed his marble cake. The brown and white whorls moving within and around each other. They were yin and yang. He and she.

Most of all she missed his Vanilla sponge cake. A simple flavour spread throughout it, combined with the flour forever.

To say she didn’t go to the Bakery wasn’t entirely true. She just held a different schedule. His keys had been easy to copy, and she’d figured out his codes by watching, so every Sunday she broke in at midnight. It was just to smell him. The breads and bagels he’d made the day before. She pushed her face into them. Smelled their cruel perfume. Once she didn’t reset the alarm properly, which he triggered when he entered. Once she’d removed a fuse to disarm the alarm, causing a bulb to explode. Sometimes she tested ingredients to ensure that they were worthy to touch his hands.

Today she had a special ingredient to add to his sourdough. Cyanide would put him behind bars for sure. At least there he would welcome her visits. Transformation requires pain.

Tea-Jay

Posted in Global Travel, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , on February 11, 2012 by javedbabar

Natasha waited in line at the Transparent Temple – the nickname for their state-of-the-art community centre. Damn, she thought, there’s almost two hundred people here already; I wish I’d come earlier. Still, she remained hopeful.

“What do you think of our chances?” said the boy. He was being friendly, but also chatting her up, she thought. He appeared somewhat nerdy, but didn’t make her feel uncomfortable. There was no need yet to pull out her pepper spray.

“Pretty good,” said Natasha. “But I wish they were better.”

“I came at six am, and there was hardly a soul here,” said the boy. “So I went for a…”

“A coffee!” Natasha burst out laughing. “That’s what I did too. How stupid. I was only gone half an hour, and came back to this. By the way, I’m Natasha.”

“Hi, I’m Bobby. Have you attended a Tea Party before?” The queue eased a little, and they moved forward two feet.

“No, but I’ve been dying to go for ages. I missed the one in the City, and the one in Strattus. I’m so glad they decided to do an extra date here.”

Tea Parties began in England last year, and were now a global phenomenon. Their Anglo-Indian founder had very fond memories of clubbing from his youth, but now he’d hit forty, could no longer take the pace. He decided his future lay in being Teetotal: totally devoted to tea.

There are two origin stories for tea. The first concerns the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung. He was sitting beneath a Camellia Sinensis tree while his servant boiled water, a common practice to purify it. A leaf from the tree blew into the water, creating a pleasing aroma.  Shen Nung tried the brew and declared it an auspicious drink. The second story is that of Indian sage Bodhidharma, who spread Buddhism to China. He practiced very fierce austerities, believing in the power of ceaseless meditation and prayer. He fell asleep one day, and was so disgusted with himself that he cut off his own eyelids, and threw them away. From these holy relics the first tea bush sprouted.

The founder of Tea Parties was inspired by this story, and adoped the name of the sage. The new Bodhidharma decided there was a higher way to have fun, to connect with others, to avoid the toxins of alcohol and drugs, and negative effects of dehydration and sleep deprivation. The Way was all day Tea Parties.

“One of my friends has gone crazy,” said Bobby. “He’s taken a year’s sabbatical from his law firm, and attended Tea Parties all over the world. He started in England, where he had the most amazing luck. A girl he met in an arty bar knew one of the Tea-Jays. She got him into the Tea Party at Buckingham Palace! It was a classy affair; Will and Kate were there.”

“Wow!” said Natasha. “Now that’s what I call networking. Where else did he go?”

“The English Party was prim and proper. There was Earl Grey tea in bone china cups, followed by ballroom dancing. He wanted to try another country so went to India. He must have turned on the charm, because he got invited to attend a Tea Party at the Taj Mahal. They sat in rose-gardens and drank spicy chai from small clay cups, and then engaged in bhangra dancing, before smashing them. Next he went to Russia, and believe it or not, made it to the Kremlin. They mixed teas from a giant samovar, added vodka, and did Cossack-dancing. He particularly enjoyed that one. He went on to China, Korea, and Japan. In Japan they…”

Bobby cut the conversation when the line jumped forward. Within a few minutes he and Natasha were at the front of the queue. The bouncers waved them in. “Well aren’t you going to search me?” said Bobby. Natasha was surprised; most people would have gladly been spared the indignity of a body search. However you attempt to civilize it, it is, essentially, hairy dimwits groping you. But Bobby insisted upon it. And now that this protocol was established, bouncers searched Natasha and everyone else.

“What was that about?” said Natasha. “Because of you my pepper spray and mickey of rum got confiscated. No one else seemed bothered.”

“I’m sorry to upset you. But the essence of a Tea Party is purity. We can’t have people bringing in additives. That would ruin the whole effect.” Natasha shook her head. Maybe he was a creep after all – and now she was defenceless. She decided to distance herself from Bobby. She smiled and said, “See you later.”

The Tea Party wasn’t starting for another hour yet, but the Tea-Jay was already at his blending desk. And it wasn’t just some local lad with an ipod. Tea-Jays undertook a one-year, full-time apprenticeship. Internships in Ottawa – or at Google, Facebook, or Goldman Sachs – were child’s play compared to acceptance onto the Tea-Jay program. It was said that twelve people had been trained by Bodhidharma, of whom only six graduated. Their identities were never revealed. Today’s Tea-Jay wore a V for Vendetta mask. It was a little creepy.

Natasha seated herself on a cushion in half-lotus position. There was an even split of girls and guys, maybe 250 people in all.

The lights were dimmed, and soft chants filled the hall. The first cup was served. It was a delicate brew.

Chants became stronger. The second cup was served. It had a fresh flavour.

Light beats kicked in. The third cup was served. It had a hint of cinnamon.

Beats became harder. The fourth cup was served. It tasted of maple and chocolate.

A counter melody came in. The fifth cup was served. Its taste was of peppermint, and vanilla, and clotted cream.

The melody ascended. The sixth cup was served. It held many flavours – toffee, whisky, and yeast; melons, quail, and burnt caramel.

The melody expanded, and filled the room. The seventh cup was served. It was the agony of leaves unfolding, giving every part of themselves. It did not contain the previous mistakes of starting at the bottom – with bohea leaves, and working your way up to flowery orange pekoe. Instead you started at the bud, and worked downwards, encompassing all possible flavours. There were no broken leaves that had been crushed, torn and curled; only whole leaves that were withered and rolled by Masters. High rainfall and high elevation were there. Black, White, Oolong, Green, and Fermented teas. This final cup was brewed at the highest temperature to extract the large complex phenolic molecules. These active substances were shared with all the Tea Lovers present here now. They spoke of love, and beauty, and poetry; of hope, faith, and courage; of sadness and despair; and of dreams coming true, and spending forever immersed in bliss.

Bodhidharma didn’t mind filling in for his Tea-Jays in a crisis, and he enjoyed queuing up with the crowd. It gave him a feel for the energy present, plus helped to preserve his anonymity when entering and leaving. He preferred being known as Bobby rather than Bodhidharma. He smiled behind the blending desk and thought, “Another successful Brewing; Complete Infusion.” He wondered if they even knew that they were all on their feet, dancing and chanting, “Camellia Sinensis!”

God's Guest

Posted in Alternative Energy, World Myths with tags , , , , on January 27, 2012 by javedbabar

It was foolish to leave it so late but at least he’d started. Rob had laid down the structure, and now it was time to fill in the blanks. It was mainly stuff he knew – which had been swirling around in his head for weeks – but he had yet to distil a conclusion. The issue was how to install the first four wind turbines without killing birds? He’d been trying to push this project through a year. The client was okay with the turbines’ power production and payback period, but stalling on their danger to birds. Sure a few would get mangled; what could you do? This was the cost of green energy.

As he took his last mouthful of pinot noir, his fingers were flowing. Tap-tap-tap. Thank God he could touch-type. That halved the time. Touch-type. Tap-tap. Tap. There was another tapping. Was it the boiler settling? Or some part of the cabin cracking? Tap. No, it was someone knocking. At this time? Tap.

“Hello,” said the woman. “Can I stay here tonight?”

Rob was baffled. Was this a joke? Before him stood a woman of about sixty, in too many layers, surrounded by bags. There wasn’t the tang of pungent oranges, but she hadn’t seen a shower in a while; and her clothes were strangers to the laundry. “Are you lost?” he asked eventually.

“No, I wanted to stay here,” she said, then spoke in a flurry. “Someone gave me a ride up the Valley, they were very kind. It was a little out of their way, but they brought me here. I didn’t tell them where I was going, of course. Maybe I shouldn’t have taken the ride. But it was dark you see, and I don’t have a vehicle. I couldn’t have made it otherwise.”

“Where do you think you are?” said Rob, peering behind her.

“At the shelter of course.” She smiled as she spoke, her cheeks becoming hard and round.

“The shelter?”

“Yes, the women’s refuge. You’re less welcoming than I remember.”

“Less welcoming?” said Rob. “Excuse me.” He took a few steps past her, to see if anyone else was there. “Are you really by yourself?” She nodded, still smiling. She was about to speak but didn’t. “Why are you here?”

The woman’s face fell; her eyes jolted as if he’d told her that someone had died. Rob realized that he was “in a situation”. He said, “Ok, come in. Let’s have some tea.”

She cradled the cup between her palms, enjoying its cosy cheer. “Nice cup,” she said, testing the china. Tap-tap. She told him that she had once lived in Lucerne. This building was used as a home for distressed women and their families. Whatever their trauma – financial, marital, or criminal – this was a place of safety for them when they fled their nests. It was in a discreet, out-of-town location, and the neighbours all had dogs, treating visitors to a canine chorus. She’d never needed to stay at the shelter herself, but knew women who had taken flight there. “When was this?” said Rob.

“Twenty years ago,” said the woman.

“Twenty years ago!” said Rob reflexively. He saw her flinch and become fearful.

“Have I made a mistake?” she said. “Oh dear. This isn’t the refuge, is it?” She twisted her hands together and looked down. “I’d better go.” She stood up and began to collect her bags, three in each hand, looking like a fussing bird.

“Hang on a minute,” said Rob. “Where will you go?”

“I’m not sure. Back into town. Do you think I will find a ride at this time?”

“Look, I can give you a ride if you want. I have friends who own a B&B.” Then he realized that a bag lady would not be seeking three-star accommodation. “Scratch that. Listen, why don’t you stay next door?” He felt ashamed even as he said it; a woman like his mother, and he was sending her to an unheated garage. “Scratch that too. Why don’t you stay here tonight?” But here was a single female looking for a women’s shelter, and he was asking her to share with a male. She didn’t say anything, just smiled nervously.

There was no solution to this problem, thought Rob. And on top of that, the old woman had broken his flow of thoughts. He had to present his findings at 9am tomorrow, and now he had a crazy houseguest. What to do?

The woman relaxed after her second cup of tea. Tap-tap. She took off her coats. Beneath was a full length, bright blue dress, filled with white swirls. “It’s amazing what people throw away,” she said.

She looked around and then said, “The local hospital closed down and there are no hospitals nearby. So I have to travel very far. When they do blood tests, they take four big tubes full of my blood. I say why? They say there are four different laboratories. Ginger is good for acidity, garlic is good for joints; onions, I don’t know, but I put them in everything. I do a big shop monthly, someone takes me, and a small shop daily on my walk.” She was an animated speaker, and her dress shifted as she spoke. The white swirls were moving, almost spinning, as they followed her elbow and knees motions.

Rob let her keep talking for a while, and then said, “I have an important meeting tomorrow. Please excuse me, I must go to bed. Will you be alright on the couch here?”

She made a sour face, which annoyed him. Then she said, “Do you have a separate room?”

“Yes, I will be in my bedroom. You will be alone here.”

“No,” she said. “I mean for me. I need privacy.”

The cheek of this woman! Rob could have her thrown out, but where would she go? He said ok, showed her to the bedroom, took her coats and bags there also, and settled himself on the couch. He heard her lock the bedroom door.

When Rob awoke, he realized that he would have to work quickly to complete his presentation. It was best to go straight to the office and finish it there. He knocked on her door. Tap-tap. But there was no reply, and it was locked from within. He peered in from outside. The window was ajar, with a few blue feathers caught in the grille. He called her again but she didn’t answer, and it was too dark within to see. Damn that woman! He didn’t have time to deal with her right now, so drove to work. He opened his windows for fresh air.

Down the Meadows Road, he saw a mass of clouds milling in blue sky. It almost seemed like beats from his dance tunes made them whirl. One tune in particular sent them crazy. It was by a British band fronted by a bald black man. When its powerful riff exploded – a swirling tap-tap-tap-tap – a flock of blue birds shot into the sky and flew away rapidly.

Teacup

Posted in Mystical Experience, Unknown, World Myths with tags , , , on January 19, 2012 by javedbabar

Raj sat cross-legged in bed and drank his tea. This was how he started his day always: slow and civilized. Then it was off to work at the popular tea, coffee, and whisky merchants, Brown Stuff. He was going nowhere there, but it was a steady job.

Raj couldn’t handle coffee in the mornings – it was way too harsh. He would lose his sleep immediately, and with that the crazy wonderland between sleeping and waking that produced his best ideas. He rationalized this as unstructured thought – a Rubik’s cube of possibilities that you solved in reverse. You started with the colours aligned, and twisted them into any arrangement that pleased you. That, rather than uniform colour blocks, was somehow always the answer.

“Good morning!” said a cheery British voice. “May I help you?”

“Huh?” said Raj. He wondered if he was still dreaming, or sick, or hung over. His “whisky tasting” had gotten a little out of hand last night.

“Hey! I said good morning!”

Raj had been sipping his tea with eyes shut, and now opened them wide. Had he left the radio on? Maybe the television? Or Skype?

“What’s wrong with you man! Did nobody teach you manners?”

Raj shook his head and blinked hard. The sound was very near. It seemed to be coming from his teacup. “Getting warmer!” said the voice. “By the way, I must commend you on that. You warm the cup first. I know it’s not quite a pot, but it makes such a difference. These North Americans murder tea. They have no idea.”

Raj peered into the cup, almost expecting to see a little person in there. A sort of lep-tea-chaun. But there was nothing there, just a few drops remaining, and a shiny bottom.

The voice continued. “Let’s get this awkwardness over with. Come on, look deeply into the cup. That’s it. Don’t be shy, put your nose in. Don’t breathe so hard, you’ll fog things up. Now can you see me?” Raj mumbled something, peering into the black shiny teacup. “I’ll take that as a yes. I know that I may look like a creepy reflection to you. Believe me, I’m not too happy about it either. But that’s the best I can do right now. People have been doing this for hundreds of years – looking into tea leaves – and sorry about the C-word – coffee grounds. And studying goat shit and cattle guts – you have to admit I’m better than that.”

Raj was speechless. He could see something moving at the bottom of the cup. But it held only his distorted features.

“Look, I know that you could throw a dice, flip a coin, open a book to any page, or see who comes along next. But stick to the old ways, my friend. They’re tried and tested. The Way of Tea has been with us from the beginning. Think of India and China. And look at the nations promoting it in recent times – Britain and Japan. Both world leaders! Now who pushes – sorry again about the C-word – coffee? Italians, Indonesians, and Ethiopians. All disasters! Need I say more?

Raj nodded his head, forgetting it was still in the cup. He banged the bridge of his nose and top front teeth. He pulled away and put down the cup. He held his nose and teeth.

“You have been initiated my friend. Let’s get to work.”

Raj thought of taking the day off – he was clearly unwell. But he couldn’t stay here either. He needed to get out. So he showered, dressed, and left.

He was drawn to the office kettle. It was in an offset kitchenette, where two was a crowd. A foxy brunette from Sales almost came in, but saw him and retreated. He returned to his desk with his first cup of tea. He was somewhat fearful, and nervously gulped it down.

With his last mouthful, he heard a kind of throat-clearing. “About time too!” said the voice. “What kept you? Anyway, I’m here for you my friend. That sweet lady back there – your heart jumped. You like her, don’t you? Well that’s hardly a challenge, but we should start slowly, so you can build confidence in your new buddy. So look, here’s what I want you to do. Next time she comes in, offer to make her some tea. In fact, insist on it. Say it’s a new blend that she just has to try; her customers will love it. Leave the rest to me.”

Raj made the foxy brunette some tea. By the weekend she was in his bed.

“Next up, my friend, is to strengthen your position here. I’ve noticed that new guy makes you uncomfortable. Why do they keep bringing in consultants? Overpaid buffoons. I know he’s examining your department, looking for cuts. Make him a cup of tea.”

The consultant realized that Raj’s team were the key drivers of profitability within the business. He recommended cuts in the coffee team.

“You are going places, my friend. But your boss has been in that big corner office for far too long. Wouldn’t you say it’s time for him to move on? Let’s give him a good brew.”

The boss announced that he was taking early retirement. He would sail to Kenya with his wife on a tea clipper.

“Sorry for the C-word – coffee is not good for you; it’s got thrice the caffeine of tea. And when you ask for a double-double grande soya mocha frappuccino, who knows what other junk? And whisky is a toxin. It’s not even brown! Just caramel colour. Call a board meeting, and let’s serve them a cuppa.”

The board agreed with Raj’s mantra that there was “No C in Strategy – No W in Future – But both contain T”. Brown Stuff sold their coffee and whisky businesses, and used the funds to buy other tea companies. They became North America’s biggest tea merchants.

Sitting cross-legged in bed one morning, Raj looked into the bottom of his teacup. For a moment he saw his own clear reflection. Almost immediately it was replaced by the distorted version. “You have a meeting today with a scientist who says that tea increases the chances of throat cancer. Make him some tea. Then in your desk drawer, you will find a handgun…”