Artwork by Barry Silver
The best cuppa chai I ever sipped was in the village of the Blue God. Krishna’s Vrindavan.
The chai-wallah sat cross-legged in one box and made chai from the contents of another. With an economy of movement, neither bending nor leaning, he dipped a long handled spoon into the smaller box and flourished an arc of spice, tea dust, and sugar into a pot of half water half milk that rolled on the boil.
He offered the chai in single-serve clay cups. Use once, then toss on a pile that mounts until monsoon turns a heap of shard into a river of mud.
Vrindavan chai, each sip, a mouthful.
Fragrant, creamy, bold, and sweet.
I speak of true chai.
The nectar of a sky-hued God.
A hankering for that kind of chai is hard to appease. A girl has to lift-off and drop from the sky into the dawn of a faraway city hazy with insomnia and the smoke of burning trash. She must succumb to the chaos of lawless desperate roads with her pocket full of rupees.
Inshallah Lahore. 24 hours a day Lahore ladles out the city’s best chai. This here city. New York.
Follow the cabbies from the corner gas station at Lafayette and Houston into a cluttered storefront on Crosby. Join a sub-continental, inter-religious forum that congregates for milky chai, paper plates of mutton biryani, a toilet, and a bulletin board.
Do you want to sell your cab?
Lahore also stocks a large selection of rusk, a curiously German, dry-packaged good which is popular in Indian shops the world over.
Zwieback in German.
Lahore’s many condiments include South Indian pickle, a tight mass of bitter withered fruit and grit gathered in a pool of unctuous red oil.
Lahore’s food is cheap, hot, Halal.
Their chai is cheap, hot, heaven sent.
To the fellows at Lahore,