She gazed around the room. There was something so distinctive about the familiar smell of a relative’s house. The sound of the pressure building on the stove could be heard from the kitchen. Along the far wall was an old map, a slight tear in the corner traveled along the edge, finishing parallel to the bottom tip of India. She moved closer to inspect it, realising with surprise that the heirloom her grandmother had decided to hang next to the military photos of her grandfather, was an old colonial map. As she leaned in to look at it more closely, she could just about discern the occupants of a bustling café in a city at the northern end of India, just slightly east of Lahore.
Five tiny men, who proudly bore the Union Jack on their lapels, were lazing in a café terrace steadily taking in their surroundings. The distant murmurs of their idle chatter mixed in with the daily orchestra of locals completing the working day. They appreciated the softness of the gentle waitress whilst occasionally complaining about the warmth of their beers.
“Just milk please.”
The men lolled in the heat, was it the weight of the warm food or their duty that kept them seated as the sun continued to bow. Their guns cooling in the advancing dusk, the heat on them dissipating from the morning’s antics. Amritsar, India 1918, the shadow of the mid-April day crept along the dusty streets and inched towards the tightly laced boots of the men. The boots, subordinate, like their wearers, furrowed at the ankle as the men finally eased themselves wearily off their post and upwards. The day was nearly over. The waitress, gaze averted, had informed them that the hour of closing had come. Back to base, back to the promise of sleep and a well-earned dissonant rest.
“This map, how did you come to acquire it grandma?”
“Lovely old chap dropped it by once, friend of your grandfather’s. He had wonderful stories about his own father in the war, real patriots they were you know. Very impressive work they did for us, all for our country.”
She turned, a warm mug of tea was placed on the edge of the wooden table. The steam on it rose, like the smoke curling around the barrel of a working gun. Her grandmother’s innocent smile found her passive eyes.
“Everything alright sweetheart?”
She paused, noting the home comforts as her eyes traveled across the room, resting on her grandfather’s photo.
“I’m right as rain grandma, thank you for the tea.”
The old lady smiled and nodded, lifting the mug to her face and inhaling the warmth as she settled back into her weathered armchair.