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Family Aid 2020
   Vol. 22 No. 29
Tuesday August 29, 2023

Qatar Airways Karak Chai

Geoffrey Arend II, Emily Arend and Flossie Arend
The 14th century Makli Necropolis near Thatta, Pakistan. All in the family . . . Geoffrey Arend II is flanked by sisters Emily (l) and Flossie Arend (r).

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in 2020. We feel it's worth a Summer Fun revisit.

Dear Qatar Airways,

Emily and Flossie Arend QSuite      
I recently had the pleasure of flying business class from Doha to New York City over the holiday season. There is much to commend about your Qsuites—a quick google reveals countless flattering reviews of everything from your lie-flat seats to your capacious bathrooms. I enjoyed both of those features—the former because I love to sleep and the latter because I am a hapless klutz and need as much elbow room as can be spared when changing into my pajamas, which you also graciously provided—but you gave me something I’ve never had before, and now I’m hopelessly smitten. No, it’s not your mute, unobtrusive overhead lighting that mimics the passage of time from day to night, although kudos on that thoughtful touch. I have my Philips Hue lights to replicate that. No, it’s not your fully stocked amenities bags, or the little cubbies and footwell provided to store my things and put my feet up. No, it’s not your wide and generous selection of movies and television shows. It’s not even your dividers, which I would relish on nights when my husband is taking up a little too much of the bed—what I wouldn’t give to throw up a Qsuite wall and secure my equal space.
     No, the thing that won my heart, that had me pressing the attendant button for more, was your karak chai. Perhaps I should explain myself.
     My trip to Doha didn’t terminate in Doha. It connected to a flight to Pakistan, where I proceeded to spend almost three weeks lusting after and being denied chai. It might sound silly, or simple—you might admonish me to “reach a little higher, Flossie”—but all I wanted in Pakistan was a delicious cup of chai. But no matter where I went, chai was metaphorically smacked out of my hands, and oh, did it burn my very soul. I was scalded by the lack.
     Let me explain myself further.
Pakistani Chaiwalla      For all of my life, for as long as I can remember visiting my Pakistani relatives stateside, my favorite thing has been the tea. Even when I was probably much too young for caffeine, my Pakistani relatives offered me tea. South Asians love their tea, and after my first cup, I understood why. It’s black tea, evaporated milk, and a little sugar, but it tastes like so much more than the sum of its parts. There’s something in the alchemy of those three ingredients, some heady, smoky sweetness, that I’m almost certain in coming together forms an entirely new element. Chai. I’ve tried to replicate it at home, but it never tastes the same. Maybe there exists a fourth ingredient—family—that makes it taste a certain way, but that feels overly poetic and frankly unsatisfying. I think there is a secret and elusive knowledge hidden from me. Maybe the eternal pursuit is part of it.
     Which brings me to chasing chai in Pakistan. Everywhere we went, my eyes saucered at the prospect of nearby chai. We took a street tour and I wallowed near the chai counter, surreptitiously taking video of the chai walla as he roiled a giant vat of creamy chestnut-colored chai over high heat. I was hypnotized by his practiced efforts, waterfalling chai from container to container and ladling it into waiting cups. I made many faces at my mother—I’m sure looking very much like Oliver Twist—but she always pressed her eyes shut and quickly, subtly shook her head by the smallest degrees in that universal gesture of ABSOLUTELY NOT that is so rapid, so subdued as to only be seen by one person, and but briefly. I wasn’t allowed to have any chai. It didn’t matter that the water was surely boiled, because what if it wasn’t boiled enough? What if the milk wasn’t pasteurized? What would happen to my American constitution (the only American constitution I now heartily damn!) if I drank this chai made from all these unknown sources, in a country where I absolutely could not and should not drink the water? I enjoyed it exactly twice—once, in a restaurant deemed safe and once again, in the home of a relative where both the source of the water and the milk was secure. Otherwise, I spent close to three weeks in Pakistan with no chai.
Summer Fun     So, dear Qatar Airways, when I boarded your flight from Doha to New York City one of the first things I asked for was your cardamom karak chai. And then I asked for it again. And again. And your flight attendants, ever obliging, didn’t balk at my requests, and dutifully brought me chai after chai. It was the most delicious drink I’ve had in a while. I was determined to try the saffron karak chai as well but after three cardamom karak chais and a slight tremor, I realized I couldn’t manage it. Your business class Qsuites are lovely—truly, the height of flying anywhere, as far as I can tell—but it was your humble cup of karak chai that made me happiest. Oh, and the flight attendant making my bed. I felt like a kid again. What better praise is there?

P.S. Is there a recipe?
P.P.S. Do you bottle your karak chai and if so, can you ship it to New York City?

If You Missed Any Of The Previous 3 Issues Of FlyingTypers
Access complete issue by clicking on issue icon or
Access specific articles by clicking on article title
Vol. 22 No. 26
Think Ahead To RACOS
Chuckles For August 9, 2023
India Gets Late
Summer Over The Moon
Vol. 22 No. 27
Can Freighters Navigate The Perfect Storm?
India Cargo—Ask Shesh
Air Babies

Vol. 22 No. 28
Tea For The Tillerman, Please

Publisher-Geoffrey Arend • Managing Editor-Flossie Arend • Editor Emeritus-Richard Malkin
Film Editor-Ralph Arend • Special Assignments-Sabiha Arend, Emily Arend

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