Anyone who, like me, grew up in India or Bangladesh would remember the sound of the bell sounding ‘tung tung tung’ just outside your home or cottage. Whether you opened the door or not, you would hear the attendant sound of children screaming loudly with laughter and joy, ‘Ice cream, ice cream, here we come’.
Now as supermarkets and local stores have sprouted up everywhere like mushrooms, those ice-cream sellers aren’t found on the street on summer days anymore, with the promise of cooling, icy relief.
But coffee-sellers are still around. On foggy winter mornings and evenings they try to grab the attention of potential customers with their cries. ‘Don’t suffer from cold, grab a coffee’ or ‘Hot coffee will make you hot.’ Couples will find themselves forced to agree to a cup, a small price to pay for the privacy they’re after.
When reminiscing about my life in Bangladesh, a yearning for the ‘tung tung tung’ ice-cream bell comes first. Then it’s a yearning for the coffee I would share with my boyfriend in the park, a drink we bought in exchange for privacy after successful emotional blackmailing by the sellers.
Things are different in Australia. I do not need to pay money to be alone.
One winter morning in 2013 here at ANU, I felt my heart beating in desperation for a coffee. But what was it beating for, exactly? For the container of coffee sitting on my kitchen bench next to the tea and sugar, or for something else?
It was not just a craving for caffeine, but for company. Even the company of those coffee-sellers, who I once considered as nuisances. Now I saw that their invitation to find relief from the cold referred not only to their coffee, but to their attention.
One busy Monday morning in Canberra soon after, I got a text from a classmate: ‘Would you like to join me for a coffee at my place this weekend?’
Over the next few days I prepared myself, deciding what to wear and even updating my wardrobe.
When that afternoon arrived, I was never so disciplined in showing up right on time.
Over the much-anticipated cup of coffee, my classmate—who later turned out to become my best friend—told me, ‘I love sharing coffee with you.’
‘Why?’ I asked, unable to hide my curiosity. Is he going to ask me out on a date?
And I got the answer within a minute. ‘Because winter is so depressing. A cup of coffee with a friend who makes me laugh can take it all away.’
Everything became clear to me. I realised I too was depressed without knowing what it was exactly.
Over two cups of coffee, we talked about literature, Doctor Who, and shared tips on how to find a girlfriend or boyfriend. The cold lifted.
There are no traveling coffee-sellers in Canberra, tugging at your sleeve to buy a drink. But who needs this service when you can do yourself the service of inviting friends over to your place to warm yourselves up?
Winter might bring loneliness and the strongest coffee cravings, but it also brings the clearest direction on who to share your coffee with. And, who is your cup of tea!