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Just a gift

I am at work, in an office without windows.

It is 4:10 pm and the floor is buzzing quietly. Like the whole nation, the office is on its tea break.

In the canteen, I fill my mug with dishwater masquerading as tea, and am walking past a cubicle when I stop. I smell it first. And then see it. A familiar blue cardboard box on a new colleague's desk. She's from Poona too.

She catches me looking at the box in incredulity, smiles knowingly and tells me to open the box and take one. I'm still unsure if it's a prank but I open the box anyway.

And there they are, rows and rows of whitish biscuits with light brown edges.

I bite into the crisply convivial, buttery crust, and a tsunami of homesickness washes me away in a whirlpool, even before I can appreciate the taste.
 
And it is 4:10 pm. A different, quieter Poona.

I am cycling home on my red Hero Ranger.

The sky is blue, the sun is warmly friendly and a slight breeze brushes away the heat.

I have whizzed down the Abhimanshree Society slope, challenging myself to see how far I can go without pedalling.

Now, I take the turn into my lane and glide through the gate into the parking lot of my building, already off the bike and balancing one leg on the pedal.

I chain lock the bike, climb up the 2 flights of stairs and ring the bell. The door opens and I can smell the tea simmering on the stove and the aroma of curry leaves and coconut.

I wash up, sit on the couch before the TV and watch cartoons, eating dosas washed down with the tea.

I'm lost in the maelstrom of this memory spiralling around itself, day after day after day for many a year.

Is it the closest I will ever come to heaven?

I take another Shrewsbury biscuit.

Song for the moment: Summertime - Norah Jones  

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