Dalgona Coffee

It was a sombre summer evening. Sunlight trickled from the small, square overhead vents in the kitchen. The light illuminated the figure of Shweta who stood before a gushing kitchen faucet. She was washing the dishes for the seventh time this week. Clearly, exhausted from the tireless scrubbing of sponge over steel, glass and other such materials.

The pandemic had stretched my sister too thin. She was juggling college applications, online classes as well the maintenance of this household that almost completely depended on her and my mother.

Owing to the Covid-19 protocols in May, families like ours were not permitted to call for househelp. The fear of the coronavirus was fresh and looming over the entire world.

I sat outside on a couch, intentlessly scrolling through social media. Instagram had just launched ‘reels’. I came across short videos of a certain Dalgona coffee, surely more times than I would’ve preferred. A dollop of golden coffee whipped into a cream that floated over a cup of milk and held against golden sunlight. The idea of it tempted me to no bounds.

I rose from my resting position, staring back at the impression my motionless body had left on it and proceeded to the kitchen.

“What are you doing?” my sister asked as I opened the door of the refrigerator, reaching for a canister of milk.

“Making coffee.” I responded, nonchalantly. To this her face fell and eyebrows furrowed. “No.” she said.

She gestured towards the freshly wiped utensils so I volunteered to wash the utensils once I was done using them. I also offered to make her a cup of Dalgona coffee.

A few minutes later, the coffee was ready. I took the glasses outside and placed them at a table between Shweta and I.

I remember. My mother even praised me while I assembled the parts of the electronic blender. I guess she was proud of raising an Indian man that wasn’t ashamed to wear an apron in the kitchen.

While I sat across Shweta, I could feel her gaze on me. Even though she was holding something back she was saying mouths full of nothings with her eyes.

“What about you, Nimit ?” she blurted

“What about me?” I responded.

“What household chores do you take part in?” she asked, shooting me an impatient glare. She dropped her gaze and contagious embarrassment filled the room.

I felt a pang in my chest. Suddenly a void of words filled my head.

“I’ll help you from tomorrow.” I said instinctively like I meant it.

“No you won’t. You say you will but I know you won’t. You make me so angry. For you, college hasn’t even begun yet and you’re still always busy. This is so unfair. Everyone expects me to be good at everything. A good daughter, a good cook, a good student, a good friend and the list goes on. While you’re their model son for achieving the bare minimum. I’m only a few years older than you are, you should be able to help around the house.”

I shook with her sudden outburst but I also realised the gravity of the situation.

“I’m sorry. I’ll help you tomorrow. I’m heading to my room now. I’ll work on a ‘chore chart’. Does that work for you? ” I said quietly as I left the room. I knew my sister. She wasn’t usually like that. Between us, she was the calm and considerate one. While I was the troublemaker. Her confrontational tone shocked me. I decided to give her some space and left the living room. The taste of coffee was still lingering on my tongue and the sound of her words echoing and forming solid impressions in my head.

“Yes.” she affirmed, her voice, raspy and raw.

Later that night, I made a chart of the work that needs to be done around the house and distributed the tasks equally between my sister and I. Shweta had been honest with me that evening. It ought to have required a lot of courage but she put herself out there and spoke her mind. From that day onwards, our bond became even stronger than it was. We began telling each other a lot more about our lives. We shared secrets and asked each other for advice. All in all, there was so much more transparency in this special brother-sister bond we had. The incident of the Dalgona coffee didn’t alter our bond all at once. Instead, it only marked the beginning of a stronger connection led on by a series of honest conversations.

For me this dramatic change in our relationship brought over a tide of self-awareness. Even though our lives coincided, there was so much I didn’t know. She said some things that raised sympathy for her in my heart, while some things plainly baffled me. I quickly learnt how to check my privilege as a man, both in family as well as society.

Shweta on the other hand, had released a breath she never knew she was holding back. She finally felt like she had someone to talk to, someone who understood her.

My sister taught me that women did not have to find a voice because they already have it. It’s the people around them that need to be encouraged to listen, and that, in my opinion, is a very important lesson.

Author: Vedant Vaswani

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