This past week I had tea over at the independently owned grocery store. Not the “heat your water and throw your tea bag in there” kind of tea. I had the “British Empire leaves India but the tradition still remains” kind of tea. My new friends Ekaraj and Mishti, the husband and wife that own the place, had extended an open invitation to the store at 4pm, just about any day, when they host tea time.
I watched as Mishti boiled the tea in a pot full of water for several minutes, then poured in some milk and sugar and simmered it a little longer. She poured this concoction through a strainer, into a pitcher, and carried it to the office as I followed. From up there, we could look out over the whole store. A picture on the wall above the desk gazed at us, her Yogi (she calls him master) and her face lit up when I asked her to tell me about her faith. They are Hindu, or more specifically Brahman. I have come to understand that, like Christianity, Hindu has a wealth of varieties and styles. Ekaraj and Mishti are vegetarian, and while they try to raise their children to know their culture, they understand that its difficult at their age.
Before moving his family to Idaho, Ekaraj was a cab driver in New York. They still own a building there and the rent they make from that helps fund their business endeavors in this small town where theirs are usually the only dark skinned faces in town. Mishti is mostly sad for the future of her boy and girl, whom she fears will lose their culture as they grow. She tells me they moved here in order to provide a better future for their children, send them to college, give them a life of prosperity. She still views the move here (nearly ten years ago) as the loss of her dreams for herself and her children.
She reaches for peace through meditation and connection with God (as she knows Him) with the guidance of her master. The sadness and frustration about her loss are still obvious, but she tries to overcome. I don’t know what their relationship is like as far as love goes. I do know that she cooks home made Indian food, all of it made from scratch, for Ekaraj every day he is not traveling. I sense a connection greater than just duty. And although I would usually feel repulsed by such socially engrained, gender specific roles, instead it somehow warms my heart to hear these stories as Mishti tells them.
I watch the personalities of each as they interact with the townsfolk, who for the most part accept them nowadays. Mishti has just recently started engaging more in the community now that her children are older and more independent (or so I’m told). She seems either shy, or maybe reserved. She works in the store, and the first time I wandered around it she followed me up and down the isles. Ekaraj is much more social and very good at negotiations. A salesmen through and through, he does a good job at presenting himself a confident business man. I’m still new to the area, but I do sense a tenderness or hollow spot in him. Perhaps he occasionally questions his decision to move here. Perhaps he, too, worries about the future they are building for their children.
I drink my tea awkwardly, and wonder if I’m making any social etiquette mistakes as Mishti and I take turns sipping and talking about things that are real to each of us. I don’t know this person, and my first analysis would be that we have so little in common. Yet, somehow, we share something … a fear, or a sadness?
Looking back, I imagine a soft, cuddly anger lying at our feet as we talk. A still cherished righteous anger that doesn’t burn, doesn’t flare – but mourns a loss of what could have been or how we wanted things to be.