My friend Shaheen Shirazee, has presented me with an Irish Homemade Whiskey Marmalade, brought from Grange Crofts, ovens, Country Cork. It is one of the most welcome presents brought to my by somebody coming from abroad.
Most of my generous and wellmeaning friends bring me wrong gifts from abroad. Almost all of them bring me scotch, good scotch, premium scotch, but still scotch, which you can pick up (better still, have home-delivered) from any smuggler in town. No doubt, at a price, but you can get it.
I can almost hear them thinking, as they reach Heathrow, several hours beforetime, as we Indians do. “Ah, yes, have to buy a dutyfree scotch for Busybee, he loves it. But better buy it in Dubai, cheaper.”
Or my friends bring me after-shave lotions. I do not know why. I never use them. After-shave lotions make a man smell like a woman. Or they bring me books: How To Mix Cocktails, Rare Wines Of The Loire Valley, books that serve no pratical purpose, because you don’t get the wines here or the ingredients for cocktails.
The wife being more practical, always brings me shoes. So far, they have been either too large for me or too small. And it breaks my heart giving them away to people with larger feet than mine, or smaller.
But there are friends who have brought back memorable gifts, I remember them fondly. Not expensive things, in fact, cheap, but things that you do not get here for love or money or both.
A bottle of Dujon mustard, a packet of Nuremberg sausages, a box of After Einghts (though that is not so exclusive, the Taj makes equally good chocolates, also, Sabira Merchats) a tin of Earl Grey, or even a packet of Sainsbury’s Red Label, though it may seem absurd bringing Indian tea Back to India.
All the cheeses at Frankful airport, a year’s subscription of Punch, or two years’ subscripition of the New Yorker. Olive oil, garlic crusher, orange-flavoured Vitamin c tablets, Korean Gingseng.
And now there is the Irish manamalade, made with Saville oranges, lemon, and spicked with Irish whiskey, tangy and bitter. Goes well with pau, not the pre-sliced bread, and Amul butter.