Sounds by Zimam

Posted on November 16, 2015 by



I am drinking tea as a seven-year-old in the room with the window that brings in the best breeze when a grown up asks me:
Tum chai peeti ho?
You drink tea?
A grown-up asked, surprised at the confidence with which I held my cup and sipped.

I always had big bug eyes. IK told me once that I had such a direct gaze and that is one thing that had struck her about me. I had it then too, I think, as a seven year old.
Yes, I said. To me, there was no shame in drinking tea.
Kaali ho jao gi. Jo chai peeta hai, kaala ho jata hai.
You’ll turn dark. Whoever drinks tea, turns dark.
I held the gaze and my cup with equal persistence and said, So?
Toh phir tumse shaadi kon karega?
And then who will marry you?

And I have a response ready as if it was always waiting to be heard, even when I was seven.

Nahin. Africa mai mujh say ziyada kaalay log hotay hain, aur unki shaadiyan toh ho jaati hain.
No, there are people on the continent of Africa darker-skinned than I, and they get married.

I said it in Urdu, but I meant it in my own language even then. It was a limited response given my limited experience on our earth. But, it was all I could think of as a seven-year old to counter stupidity.
Today, I stand in the sun sometimes long past my comfort because I love the way that heat stings me on my skin. It is reminders of And I Am Alive. Reminders of And I did not die of self-hate. Reminders of And I survived. Reminders of And I taught myself it is okay to have dark golden hues, no marriage at all, to shine and shine like the brilliance of fire on cold winter days, to be comforted by the hold of warm honey tea on sweet milky days.


When women hold teacups their stories pour out. When the tea arrived, it was a magical and sacred time. Samosas namkparay were decent additions but it was really the tea that gleamed gold in the evening sun, the real star of the show. The children didn’t always drink it, we would run around it, ask for sips. We would ask to dunk our biscuits in it. But we didn’t swallow it whole, just with timid sips for fear of its hot sweet sass. It was tea and what came up as a result of the women drinking it that educated us. Political parties, corruption, the jahanum we lived in.

Sometimes a neighbor or two would stop by in the evening and everyone would gather and exchange stories sipping tea and eating biscuits from the bakery or hot fried meat and vegetable samosas from the samosa stand. Stories such as how, just a few years earlier, M sahib’s son had disappeared. Everyone knew he was involved with such and such political party and that it was like a black hole you could never leave. M sahib’s son was returned to him in a bori, a sack, full of cut up pieces of flesh. “We’ve plucked his eyes from their sockets,” the young delivery boys shouted and snickered, zooming off on their gleaming-like-tea-in-sunlight motorcycles as everyone present watched with hushed fear. On the sack in slanted jagged Urdu it read: the consequence of revealing secret information. The neighbors whispered that M sahib never was quite sane after that incident; everyday, he stared off into space from his wooden chair by the window pane as if fighting with memories to separate them from the memory of that day.


The Tea of Revolution

We cook our revolution on the stove
In tea leaves milk with honey-gold,
By sipping from teacups we are eager to hold,
By sharing stories otherwise unwelcomed otherwise untold,
We pour sip savor revolution by revelation
In this land of secrets where we dare to be so bold

Posted in: Sounds