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A quick tale 137

The gift

"You shouldn't have, really!", protested mother as she eagerly accepted the huge box her brother-in-law had just handed her. Our uncle had come from abroad and we had all gathered to witness the annual gift-giving ritual. Preparations for this day would start weeks ahead. Friendships would be forged and bets traded on the mystery gifts that the relative from abroad would bear. And with the arrival of his bulging baggage, furious speculations would begin. Tiny hands would caress the sides of his luggage hoping for tell-tale clues. Elders would stand around and gape at the baggage wishing they had x-ray eyes. And the hours before the suitcases were due to be opened, excitement would reach fever pitch.

"This", said uncle pointing to mother's gift, "is a curd maker". He paused for effect before elaborating, "It makes curd". He said it with such flourish that some of us broke into spontaneous applause. The curd maker came packed in a shiny, brown box which had an image of a stunningly beautiful woman with even teeth and impossibly golden hair.

Mother opened the box delicately to reveal a smooth round container with several small glass jars inside. "You pour warm milk inside", explained uncle, "stir in a teaspoon of curd and leave it covered overnight. The next morning, you have pots of thick curd like you have never tasted before". The gathering was stunned in disbelief. "The things they invent abroad!", said grandmother. "I tell you, these foreigners are so clever!", said father. "Let's put it to test", suggested a neighbour.

So under our uncle's watchful eyes, we poured lukewarm milk into the little bottles. We fought over who would spoon in the curd until it was decided we would all have a go. With nervous hands, we carried out the task with extra diligence. Then, the all-important task of putting the lid on the container was entrusted to the guest-of-honour. Casting an appreciative eye over the crowd, he clicked it in place. "And now", he said, "there's nothing to do but wait".

The next day, at the crack of dawn, we gathered around the mystery contraption that had been at work while we slept. "Are you ready to taste heaven?", asked our uncle. Tantalising us where there was no need to. Several heads nodded in unison. And so, with the utmost care, he opened the case and brought out the jars. He shook one of them gently and the curd inside trembled. He scooped out a spoonful and held it aloft for all to see. And then with our eyes trailing it, he slid the spoon inside his mouth. He closed his eyes and savoured it. Several seconds passed before he opened his eyes and said "Perfect!".

We never used the curd maker again. Mother said it was too much trouble cleaning. Plus, what was wrong with the old way of making curd? It worked perfectly fine, she reasoned. But every year, whenever our uncle came visiting, she would bring the appliance down from the loft, dust it, clean it and display it prominently in the kitchen. "It makes such wonderful curd", she would lie to him.


Bubby said…
Ha Ha ha, ho ho ho!! ofcourse ofcourse I remember this wonderful curd maker.. still in the bedroom gathering dust. Mum asked me during my last visit "Do you want to take it?" and added "vaendam, shock adikkum".. ha ha ha..
Anonymous said…
Doesn't it make more sense not give away gifts at all instead of mocking at people like this?
dogmatix said…
And it still continues .. the last time i went to India paati claimed that the 'rubber bands' and 'safety pins' (Mother promise!!) that her neighbor bought from USA were better than the ones in India.
ashok said…
Humor - Hypocrisy - the Human mind ...
no one can weave the 3 like u do...
Saumya said…
Thinking from the gift-giving uncle's angle. What can he buy? Sarees/ Jewels....they are all better in India. So, it has to be some contraption that he thinks will be used.

Toasters are out, since most people back then ate bread when they were ill - so he thought of the curd maker instead!
jay said…
It is most difficult buying gifts when you go home. You are always expected to and what do you get year after year.. esp when you know they don't actually like what you you get, but you still have to..
Niren said…
Beautiful! Almost like a RK Narayan Malgudi Days episode! But they could have used the bottles to store things, no? Or used them to keep those money plants in water on the corner table... I know many families from South India, here in the US, who bring the curd from India as a starter culture.. and they claim its better than the US curd. Perhaps the acidophillus bacteria have different genes in India and US. Its then proudly offered as "India ka dahi". And my cousin's wife was greatly impressed - "wow, could you please give me some of it?" And then everytime someone she knew went to India, she would request a cup of "India ka dahi" to be brought back to rejuvenate her stock of the bacteria. Those bacteria must be feeling so lucky. Who would have thought they could fly over the seven seas?
Deepa said…
One of your funniest tales, Ammani. Buby, can I borrow it from your mother next time?
Dadoji said…
That's awesome.
Kusum Rohra said…
This was really neat!!

Its like the lovely (Read with lots of sarcasm) dresses my cousin brings everytime they are travelling, just to please them I have them stiched and even wear them when they come visiting.
Anonymous said…
niren - the bacteria do seem to be different as a matter of fact.
I don't know how much bio fundaes you have but this article is interesting even to thoe like who haven't had bio in a zillion years.

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