The milky chai frothed and bubbled over in the blackened kettle, placed over the  kerosene stove. With nimble fingers, the boy threw in a dash of crushed ginger, a cinnamon stick and a couple of cardamom flakes. The heady aroma of a perfectly brewed masala chai brought in the early morning walkers from Rajaji park nearby, to the concrete blocks beside the  boy’s cart, that served as makeshift benches. Over steaming cups of chai, newspapers were read and daily headlines discussed with much relish.

Slurping his tea noisily, pudgy, sweaty-faced Mr.Gupta read aloud the bit of news, for the benefit of his buddy Mr.Kumar, who was doubled over, out of breath, after his laborious morning run –‘’ Maoist attack in Bastar claims 78 lives. Paramilitary forces brought in to restore law and order in the region.’’

The glass slipped from the boy’s hand in a resounding CRASH and broke into a million pieces, spilling the searing liquid generously all over him. He let out a heart-rending wail.

‘’He’s scalded! Somebody fetch some water , quick!’’ bellowed Mr.Gupta.

All hell broke loose. The group of morning-walkers crowded around him gushing and babbling, all at once.

The migrant boy lay on the hard ground, writhing in pain, not so much from his burns, but from wondering if his mother and sister were among the 78 killed in his hometown, miles away from the roadside where he sold his cups of perfectly brewed , milky, sugary masala chai.

PS : This  post was written in response to The Daily Post’s daily One-word prompt .  .