Two Things

Lakshmi went to the temple and brought back a plastic parrot for me. I had told her that I wanted a clay one to replace the one that broke, but this is what she saw, and this is what she brought:

It’s skinny, and has a worried expression. It appears to be pacing up and down, dragging its tail like a burden behind it. I feel sorry for this parrot.

I went to get my hair cut. The hairdresser is a Chinese woman from Calcutta. Usually I drop in without making an appointment, we nod and smile at each other, I sit in her chair, she cuts my hair quickly and efficiently, I pay her and leave. But this time she was in a chatty mood. She had just returned from a visit to her daughter, who is married and living abroad. She had eaten a lot – “I put on 2 kgs. weight, can you tell?” Like most people who return from abroad, and because the Christmas season is approaching, she had bought some liquour and packed it in her luggage. [Almost no foreign liquour is sold here legally (bootleggers flourish). Instead, we have something known as IMFL, “Indian-Made Foreign Liquour” – that is, locally-made scotch, gin, vodka, rum, etc. (I don’t think there is such a category as IMIL, but if there were it would include arrack; feni, made from cashews, from Goa; toddy, made from palm sap; and beer.) When returning from abroad, one is allowed to bring in two bottles – I think – of hard liquour; maybe a couple more, if it’s wine.]

The hairdresser had packed five bottles of liquour, which she listed for me. You take your chances going through Customs – sometimes they stop you, sometimes they don’t. She was unlucky. They told her that she couldn’t carry in so many bottles. Then, she said, “I don’t know why I became so stubborn. I said, ‘I only brought it in because Christmas is coming. If you won’t let me take it, I’ll break it right here on the floor and go.’ I could have just given them one bottle for themselves, that’s all they wanted, but I wouldn’t budge. I said, ‘Do what you want, I’m not giving.’ Then they cooled down. They said, ‘You should request.’ I said, ‘No, do what you want.’ And they let me go!” She flourished the scissors and laughed. “How was I so stubborn?”

In her enthusiasm she cut my hair shorter than ever before. My face seems to gape at me disconcertingly whenever I catch sight of my reflection. I’m hoping that it will be okay soon: Christmas is coming.

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