Diwali usually arouses mixed emotions in me, rather of the kind the husband assures me the man must have felt when he saw his ma-in-law drive off the cliff in his brand new Merc.
I am a naturally acquisitive person, and the natural corollary of that, as per the husband, is the bouts of shopping fever I experience from time to time. People get repeat attacks of malaria, I get repeat attacks of shopping mania, again so says the husband. The result – over the years – has been that the husband must hold the distinction of being the only man in the metropolis who knows how to steer his way right across the city in practically any direction without passing by a shopping centre.
Except at Diwali. And that’s an important exception. For that is when the husband wants to – sorry, make that needs to – go shopping. The placation begins weeks in advance, and the wheedling begins in right earnest once Dussehra is over. ‘I have to get all these gifts for my professional contacts and staff,’ he began imploringly.
After months of deprivation of my favourite fix, I am not so easily won over. Nevertheless, it is my fix and there’s no way I am going to pass up on a shopping trip. Even if I am shopping for people I’ve never met. ‘Okay,’ I said briskly. ‘Start making your lists and we’ll decide what markets we need to visit.’
‘Kaju badam? Sadar Bazar, of course.’
‘No way,’ said the husband in true horror. ‘You can’t get in there!’
‘Well, what have you to lose? That car of yours would hardly notice another dent or two,’ I sneered. But mocking at THE car was going too far even if the husband needed my help in a hurry. I could see the shopping trip vanish into the clouds. ‘Okay, Bengali Market then.’ The husband whimpered his compliance. Bengali Market is better than Sadar Bazar, but at Diwali, there’s not much to choose between the two.
The dry fruit safely on the back-seat, the husband looked considerably more cheerful. ‘Now for bowls to put these into,’ I said, running a practised eye over his list, which always looks impossibly short to me. I just know that there are several people and destinations missing from the list, but this is not the time to say so.
‘Silver,’ he said brightly.
‘Silver is passé. Besides, they don’t have any new designs. Let’s try crystal,’ I said, steering him away from the jewellery shop.
The husband always prefers silver, even though it’s more expensive, because he knows I’m wary of overextending myself in a jewellery shop. Think I’m crazy? Well, look at it this way, if you cart home a gold necklace, there’s no way you can explain it away as a genuine necessity once cold reason strikes the husband. But a set of plates or mugs, well, he can’t put that down to an overdose!
So to the home accessories shop we went. And I had myself a ball of a time, popping things into the huge basket the shop had provided me. The husband followed, calculator in hand, muttering, ‘Are you sure you need that large a basket?’
‘I’m only following your list, dear,’ I said, popping in a rice plate I had been coveting for a long time.
When we reached home, I proudly displayed my spoils of war. Amma and the son eyed my loot dispassionately, Amma less so than the son. After all, I get the shopping mania from somewhere. Finally, the son looked up and said sternly, ‘Mum, most of this seems to be for our house. Where are Dad’s gifts?’
Like someone once said, how much sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have an ungrateful child. But then again, I get to go on another shopping trip! And after that is done, I will of course remind the husband that he’s left several people out of his list! You see, since I get my fix only once a year, I’ve got to ensure the dose is enough to carry me through for a while.
First published in The Financial Express.