As soon as I returned from my business trip, I opened my bag, took out the three packages that were on top, laid them carefully on the bed and shouted to my wife and daughter to come over to examine the loot. If you’ve ever had the chance to observe the way a lioness, after capturing a wildebeest at the end of a long and arduous chase, calls her family over to enjoy the spoils with her, you will get the idea of how I was feeling. I too had captured these articles after a long and arduous chase. The gift coupons I had received from Singapore Airlines to purchase items from their inflight shop were due to expire in a few days and I had forgotten to buy anything on my last two trips. If I had let the opportunity slip by again on this trip, the coupons would have to be squandered. Nothing is as heart-wrenching as forfeiting a freebie, but I had not let that happen. Like the lioness, it was only natural that I should feel triumphant.
“What is this?” my wife asked in a manner that reduced my triumphant mood by 73%. She was holding the elegant watch I had purchased for myself by the tip of its strap as if it were an unsightly worm.
“It’s a beautiful watch,” I said coldly, “It includes a chronograph and, when you change time-zones…”
“Ok, ok, whatever,” she said. “It’s ghastly but if you’re going to wear it, no one will notice.” I was confused whether to feel insulted that she found the watch ghastly or flattered that she felt I could still carry it off with my personality.
“It’ll go with the rest of your appearance,” she continued, making my choice clear.
“You don’t know a thing about men’s watches, woman,” I said, “So please focus your attention on what I bought for you.” I handed her a box.
“What is it?” she said, reaching for the box eagerly; but when she opened the box, the excitement left her voice. “Oh, it’s just a pair of tweezers.”
“Not just a pair of tweezers,” I said, taking the appliance from her. “See.” I turned on a switch so that a light came on at the ends. “It’s a pair of illuminating tweezers.”
"Can you illuminate me on why I would need this?”
“So that you can see what you’re plucking.”
“Of course!” she said. “Terrific! This will come in very handy when I suddenly feel the need to pluck my eyebrows in the dead of night and, when I turn on the bathroom light, I find there is an electricity failure, which happens all the time in Singapore.”
When my wife gets into a sarcastic mood, it’s best to change the topic.
“And see what I got for Nitya!” I said and took out the third package.
“Oh my God! What is this?” Her voice made the transition from sarcasm to disgust smoothly.
“It’s a feminine watch with changeable straps of different colours.” I said. “Don’t you like it?”
“It’s horrible! Next to it, your new watch looks stylish. What were you thinking?”
I was shocked by her reaction and told her the flight attendant had particularly recommended this for my daughter.
“Did you tell her your daughter is 20 years old?”
“No,” I said, “Why?”
“Because it’s a kids’ watch.” She showed me the small writing on the packaging (‘for 6-8 year old girls’), which I had failed to notice earlier.
“Oh, that’s ok,” I said, “Once we throw away the box, no one will know.”
“Only if the watch is inside the box when we throw it away,” she said.
I addressed my daughter: “What do you think? Don’t worry about amma – her views are old-fashioned.”
“It’s lovely, Appa,” she said. I looked at my wife in a marked manner and began mentally preparing the right caustic words to snub her when my daughter continued, “And I’d have worn it happily fifteen years ago.”
She burst into laughter and without any sense of shame, my wife joined her.
Witnessing their reaction, I wondered how the lioness would have felt if her family, on seeing the wildebeest lying on the grass, had said: “What’s this you’ve got for dinner? We’re vegetarians now.”
Paddy Rangappa is a freelance writer based in Singapore. Read more on his blog: http://theflip-side.blogspot.com