A thin golden band around the rim of a gleaming fine bone china tea cup is all it takes to fish out a long forgotten scene, and you see it wholly for the first time, you see it too late. An ember pours out its brilliant gold, and dies instantly, and within you someone stands holding a fistful of ash, hands singed.
Miss Margaret and Miss Grace, the Anglo-Indian sisters I once went for tutions had a tea set like that. A fine bone china set of gleaming white, with a golden band and delicate pastel flowers on a side. Only once did I see them using the set, that evening when the mothers of the tuition girls were invited for tea. Miss Grace made the tea. Miss Margaret sliced the cake brought from the local bakery, and arranged it in neat overlapping circles in two plates, each honey colored crust falling gracefully on the creamy inside. We helped her set the tea cups. “Flowers for our guests,” she said as she went turning each cup so that the flowers faced the chairs. They debated on how to serve the tea, and finally decided that once everyone was seated, Miss Margaret would walk in with the tea pot. White lace table cloth, gleaming tea cups set neatly and the sugar pot in the middle- they stood watching the setting. We watched too, a nameless emotion beating within us. Manju’s mom was the only one to come. We sat around the table, Miss Margaret brought in the tea, Miss Grace passed on the milk and sugar, and I tried not to cough as the tea cake got stuck in my dry throat.
“Are we getting those?” hubby asked. He was getting tired of my touch and buy shopping. “No, not these, let’s look for some contemporary design.” I had moved on.