Its 2 am. And its sub zero outside. When she exhales through her mouth, there is a tiny little fog that she creates. She does this on glass panes and traces odd shapes on it until they slowly disappear. There are people sitting around the room, laughing, talking, asking questions and giving answers, while she nods in agreement and pretends to be interested.
She is a little sleepy and happy drawing patterns on the glass and answering an occasional question, making an occasional non-controversial comment, making sure she does not get drawn into any conversation that would pull her out of her little corner and make her leave the comfort of not actively thinking.
She holds a little white porcelain teacup in her hands, cupping it with her palms, letting the heat of the drink sink into her skin like liquid fire. The soup is hot and just out of the pot. Red and oranges swirl in her cup, flecks of carrot and pureed tomato. A swig of mint and a small shredded basil leaf. Tiny oregano dots swim around with bits of black pepper, the aroma of tamarind curling up into her nostrils.
She can smell the tang of ginger and the raw sensuousness of onions and garlics floating in the cup she holds. She closes her eyes, breathes in deeply once and identifies every spice that must have boiled its way to heaven after leaving a bit of its identity in this soup. She peers into the cup again, looking at the swirls of creamy white that have been casually drawn on the surface of the soup, like a little whirlpool.
The mint leaf sits right in the middle of the eye of this whirlpool. Delicious.
It is nice to drink tomato soup in a teacup. Not much, not little and just enough to keep her warm. The cold is severe and everybody is wrapped in woolens, thermals and small talk. She hears something about beer and chaai and she looks up. She sees him animatedly starting another pointless debate, like most other debates.
“So what wins? Beer on a hot night or chaai on a cold night?”
There are catcalls and hoots and yeses and noes. The argument lasts for about 5 minutes. Nobody reaches any consensus, the Indianness in chaai and the coolness in beer at war. 2.30 am. She smiles before draining her cup.