It wasn’t until a week after I returned home from school that I finally got Daddy to sit down with me. I thanked him for the camera and the letter. I also told him that there were parts of the that I did not quite understand and would like him to explain further. He nodded and said he had expected this.
It was a Saturday morning We just had our morning prayers. I went down to the kitchen to make tea. Mum liked to boast that she was the only one who knew how to make her Husband’s tea. I once challenged her and insisted on making Dad’s tea. He took a sip and said it was really good. Mum took one look at the tea and said that couldn’t be true, that he only said that to make me feel good. “Too much milk,” she said.
It turned out that she was right. About an hour later, I went to clear away the tray but the tea was still there. It had gone cold, with the milk congealed on its surface to form a pattern that looked like the map of someplace. I doubted that he went beyond that first sip he took in my presence.
I asked him why he didn’t drink his tea, and he said exactly what Mummy said earlier, that the milk was too much. Even then, I didn’t give up. But all my subsequent attempts ended the same way. If the milk was not too much, the sugar would be too much or too little, or the tea itself would be too flat, and so on.
One day, Mum took pity on me and said, “Aliya, you better stop wasting your time and let me show you the secret.” I asked her to show me. She laughed and asked how much I was willing to pay her for the coaching because she stood a great risk of losing her husband to me if she showed me how to make his tea.
I said I would ask my dad to pay her. “That one? He has Araldite in his hands. He won’t pay,” she sneered. She said the first thing to do was to ensure that the water was gently brought to a boiling point. She said it was always better to use the kettle, because if I used a pot, the water would lose most of its oxygen, and oxygen was important. I wondered what that meant.
She said I would add two tea bags to the mug. Everyone had their own mug in our house. Even though they were the same size, Daddy’s mug was blue, Mummy’s was red and mine was orange. We had other colours and sizes, but those were for guests. I recalled once Mummy and Daddy were standing in the kitchen, and Mummy was complaining about something.
Then Daddy held up her mug in response to whatever she was saving, without uttering a word. This got Mummy even more upset and she said, “Oh, you are saying it is my cup of tea, right?” They could be like that sometimes. The tea bag would go in the mug first, then I would pour the boiled water over the tea bags and leave it to brew for about five minutes to draw out the flavour. After that, I would add two cubes of sugar.
As for the milk, even though she did not need any measurement to get the quantity right, she said I should add only five teaspoons. After three attempts, I became an expert in the chemistry of making Daddy’s tea.
If I got it right, the tea would have a golden colour and it would taste almost too strong for me. But that was how he liked his tea. Since then, I had taken it upon myself to make his tea whenever I was home. That Saturday morning, I made his tea and made hot chocolate for myself. When I got to his door, I shouted for him to open up.
As I walked in, he grabbed his tea from the tray. A small glass table sat between two single chairs. He hurriedly cleared the table, but there was still a remote control on it, which tipped the tray to one side as I set it down on the table, almost upturning my beverage. He reached swiftly for my mug and lifted it off the tray.
“Thank you,” he said as he took the first sip at his tea. “You have now mastered this thing,” he said. I grinned and said thank you. The two chairs at the foot of the bed normally faced the television screen on the wall. He had rearranged them that morning to face each other. “Yes, I am ready for the interview,” he said jovially as he sank into the chair. “That reminds me. Daddy, I don’t think I want to be a doctor anymore.
I think I want to be a lawyer,”I said as I sipped at my drink. If he was surprised, he did not show it. When I was about to enter the senior class, he asked me what career I would like to pursue in future. At that time, I was so sure that I wanted to be a pilot. I liked their smart uniforms and the freedom to travel around the world.
Then there was a plane crash that killed so many people and I didn’t want to be a pilot anymore. I thought I should be a musician, a songwriter. I loved music. I still had a big notebook where I copied the lyrics of different songs and some of my own. Soon after, I could not think of a better occupation than fashion designing.
I made Daddy pay for an App, which enabled me to create different designs. Then one day, after a particularly serious attack of asthma, I resolved to be a doctor. I wanted to be able to help children who suffered from Asthma.