“This is the field where the saffron is growing,” sister said, pointing to a bright and rich green field stretched out beside the rode on which we drove.
“When is the harvest season?” the younger sister said. There were woods beyond the field and beyond the woods were mountains epically high though distant.
“Later, in the fall,” said Uncle.
We turned toward the fields and down a rocky dirt road. A girl in the grasses walked to a man hunched over in his chore of tending. Further, young women in dupattas washed clothes in a little stream. The stared at us and whispered to each other and laughed. We entered into the woods we had seen before, woods with fences and houses and people and buckeri* walking slowly along the road. At a crossroads beside a makeshift fence of corrugated steel, a man with a light cream, finely crocheted prayer hat asked us “Where are you going?”
Uncle told him and the man raised his brown and slightly wrinkled finger to a path. We followed it, and arrived. The gate of the property was blue like the mountain streams – bright, icy blue. It rose up high and had curls of mountain-stream painted metal decorating the top. The metal curls of the front porch were much the same – the front porch on the lower story as well as the higher one – and the Jethani* stood on the front step, with a baby on her hip, to welcome us.
We slipped off our shoes and went up on the steps and greeted her, “Peace be unto you.” “And peace be unto you.” * And they ushered us into the parlor room – a room with wood-framed, vertically rectangular windows, cascading red curtains, Indian patterned red floor rug, and small red cushions placed evenly around the borders.
We sat on the floor with our legs crossed. The Jethani slipped out while her husband greeted us, then slipped back in with a tray of roti and saffron tea.
This roti – a flatbread made on the stove – was sweet and flaky and garnished with candied lime. It was delicious, but nothing in comparison to the tea. Tasting this tea was like tasting an Indian sun: Warm and spiced and sweet. It was Kahva, an Indian word for eleven referring to the eleven ingredients that make up the tea – water, sugar, loose green tea leaves, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger, fennel, almonds, cashews, and saffron. It tasted like India – like the mountains and fields, like the heat of the day and the cool of the night. And as I tasted it, in wonder, for the first time, I knew why Saffron was literally worth more than its weight in gold.
*buckeri: sheep and/or goats
*Jethani: Eldest brother’s wife
*Peace be unto you: a typical Urdu greeting. Dialog in italics was originally spoken in another language.