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Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai Email Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai
August 2020

Coronavirus-related restrictions have kept many people from meeting face-to-face with friends and neighbors. This has helped curb the spreading of viruses, not to mention rumors and gossip. But experts say it’s important for us—for our mental well- being—to keep the conversations going in whatever way is possible. That’s what I’ve been trying to do. Just the other day, while sitting in my kitchen, I had a long conversation with a couple of ants.

Me: “Hey guys, nice to see you. Can you stay a while? Would you like a little sugar?”

First ant: “We’d better get out of here. Something doesn’t seem right.”

Me: “Don’t leave so soon. What’s the hurry? Would you like some honey instead? How about gulab jamun? It’s an Indian dessert.”

Second ant: “You’re right: he’s a psycho. Let’s get out of here.”

Me: “Do you two have a big family? You know, if you come back with eight other ants, you could stay here forever. I could be the landlord and you could be my ten ants.”

First ant: “Let’s get out of here before he makes us sign a lease.”

I tried to be friendly, but the ants didn’t stick around for long, and I had to spend the rest of my day chatting with my houseplants. I began with my pothos, also known as a money plant.

Me: “You look very green today.”

Pothos: “And you look very brown today.”

Me: “Are you thirsty? Can I get you something to drink?”

Pothos: “Beer would be nice.”

Me: “Beer? Aren’t you underage?”

Pothos: “I won’t tell if you don’t.”

Me: “Okay, I’ll try to sneak you a few drops from my glass.”

Pothos: “Just spill some accidentally on me. That’s how I got my first taste of beer. One your guests standing here had too much.”

I spoke to all my plants, but some were chattier than others. If you never talk to plants, you may be surprised to learn that it’s actually good for them. About a decade ago, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) of Britain conducted an experiment and found that tomato plants grow two inches taller when they hear women’s voices compared to men’s.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to persuade my wife to go outside and chat with the tomato plants. She hasn’t even shown the courtesy of thanking them when they produce big tomatoes.

It usually falls on my shoulders to ensure that all our plants get enough love and attention. But please don’t get the idea that I talk to them often. It’s usually just a few words here and there. Truth is, being stuck at home during the pandemic has made me engage in all sorts of conversations.

Me: “Hey, why are you so tight today?”

Pants: “Who are you calling tight? I’m the same size I was last week.”

Me: “You just feel tighter.”

Pants: “And you just feel fatter.”

Me: “Watch out. One more unkind word and I’m sending you off to Goodwill.”

Pants: “Sorry about that. I’m just upset that you stuffed me in the washer yesterday with so many other clothes.”

Me: “I thought you’d enjoy the company.”

Pants: “Do you like to take baths with 30 other people?”

Me: “No, I guess not.”

Pants: “You’re not supposed to wash a ton of clothes at the same time. It’s not good for our morale. We’re not like humans—we don’t like to share dirt with each other.”

Me: “Do you prefer to be separated? Some people separate the whites from the colors.”

Pants: “People still do that? I thought segregation was over. I don’t mind a little separation. Not whites from colors, but pants from underpants. Please don’t put me in the washer or laundry basket with the disgusting underwear. I spend enough time with those bozos during my work day.”

In case you’re wondering, I spoke to a psychologist and she confirmed that it’s perfectly normal to have all sorts of conversations during the pandemic, whether you’re talking to ants, pants or plants.

Compiled and partly written by Indian humorist MELVIN DURAI, author of the novel Bala Takes the Plunge.

[Comments? Contributions? We would love to hear from you about Chai Time. If you have contributions, please email us at We welcome jokes, quotes, online clips, and more.]

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