I pack bags; I tie tags; I cut strings; I fold Saris; I’m interrupted. A woman, usually Shanti* puts 2 biscuits in my right hand. In my left, she sets a plastic red mug filled 1/3 full of steaming chai – black tea boiled in half milk, half water and a generous amount of sugar. “Rajda,” she acknowledges me before moving on to the other staff. (The n-d-r combo in Andrew is hard for them to say. Some of my friends in Nepal christened me Raj, meaning prince, so too the women at Sari Bari now know me as Raj.)
I smell the tea, letting the steam sift up to my nose, hoping to clear the allergies that linger. I sip tea. I munch on biscuits. I breathe in. I breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. I drink my tea, smile at the women around me, eat my biscuits, receive a gift of paratha, fried roti, from a neighbor. I eat, speak the 5 phrases of Bangla I have learned to those around me, breathe in, breathe out.

Twice a day we stop for tea, put our work down, enjoy each other’s presence, slow down, breathe in, breathe out. The buzzer rings and I return to my work, grateful. I pack bags; I tie tags; I cut strings; I fold Saris.

*Not her real name.


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