Sharing an in-class exercise from “Memoir Writing” : the prompt was to use excessive detail for a routine daily activity. The sample reading was a journalist’s account of a Federer Agassi point described in great detail.

We were given 15 minutes to pen the essay, and had to include one reference to popular culture.  I used the song, “Morning has Broken” by Cat Stevens; my first and last lines are from the song. 

Whether I am in Menlo Park or at home in Singapore, this is one ritual that remains the same.

The Morning Cuppa

Morning has just broken. It is absolutely the best time of the day. Nowadays, I rarely hum Cat Stevens, but if I was to have a conversation with him, he would croon “ This one is for you, Amit”. I am often told that I do not multitask well, and am normally happy to not share my blissful solitude.

The kettle is filled with tap water and placed on the stove. At the same time, milk is taken from the refrigerator and a tiny amount poured into the white porcelain milk jug. I do this very carefully because the little piece of crockery has come from Gauri’s parental home, where it used to be part of her father’s tea set. The little porcelain cow had a befitting role in his elaborate ritual.

Did I mention that the amount of milk has to be exactly one horizontal finger high? As the petite jug goes into the microwave, the 30 seconds button is pressed twice and I dish the nuts out from the pantry. From four different packets, to be resealed carefully – walnuts, almonds and cashews, five of each and four Brazil nuts. No more, no less. There was that one time, before I was enlightened, when I had helped myself to a fistful of Brazil nuts. I did not know the existence of Selenium poisoning and the potency of a Brazil nut. It is a big one, but you would be nuts to believe that consuming eight of them could kill you. Well, I had lived to see another day but never again! As the nuts go into the glass bowl, my eye goes to the microwave timer. With 20 seconds to go, I open the oven door. The milk requires heating for 40 seconds, no more no less. The water in the kettle is about to beckon me with a shrill whistle, so I have to keep the tea cup ready. A big one embellished with “Papa’s : Do not take❤️!” In the cup, I dangle two teabags, one each of Yellow Label Black Tea, and Twining’s Darjeeling Tea. When properly brewed, the latter yields a thin-bodied, light-coloured infusion with a floral aroma. The Yellow label tea contrasts with its ‘wake-up’ ability. My brewing time is three minutes for the strength and four minutes for the flavour, the two working simultaneously.

The boiling water gets poured into the waiting teacup as my eye goes to the clock. It registers 5:56 AM. The milk can be poured into the cup at any stage now. The tray with the brewing cup, ‘Moo’ the little cow, the bowl of nuts and my IPad, is ready to be carried out. 

As I open the balcony door, the cuckoo bird tweets her morning greeting. And then hops and flies to a higher branch, to observe me from a safe distance. I pause to reflect on the strangeness of the hybrid moment – I am in California while the cuckoo is in Singapore. The tea bags come out and I am ready to take my first sip.

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning!

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