It was two days before I was to board my flight to India when I met them. Stephanie and Paula. Three strangers drawn together in the lobby of the Pfister over a cup of hot chai. It was ‘Tuesday Chai’ and I was not yet excited about my trip. Actually, just the opposite. Nervous. Anxious. And unsure that I had made the right decision to go. That this was the right time. And that this trip would be all that I hoped.
But then they sat down. Across from one another with me in the middle at the whimiscal table of make-believe gold. And images of Rajansthan. Of Jaipur. Of Varanasi. Flashed across her screen and a single tear, and then another fell from Paula’s eyes as Stephanie told tales of her recent trip to India. Paula and I were each transported back. To our own travels there. Some time ago.
We were captured. Our bodies. Our hearts. And our souls. And I knew. In that moment. That I had made the right decision to go. That this was the right time. And that this trip to India would be all that I hoped.
Twenty days later I returned for my first ‘Chai @ the Pfister’ since leaving. Jet lagged and missing India, I made chai. Took it up to the lobby. Locked it in place. And then, there she was. Cold, curious and delighted to find me there with a pot of homemade chai.
She was a breath of kindness. A touch of the familiar. And a warm embrace. She and her husband were visiting from Houston and had just been talking about how lovely it would be to have a cup of chai. They were both Indian. She had grown up there. Immigrating later in her life. But her husband was like me. Immigrating when we were quite young. Disconnected from our roots and culture. They sat with me. At the little table made of make-believe. And told stories. Of our past and present. Of our migration and memories. Of our seeking and finding home. Of our travels and India. Of belonging.