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 Freebies? Yes, Please!


By RatnaManucha

With travel slowly but surely picking up and tourism on the upswing, there’s something that I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on.

Is it imbedded in our DNA? This feeling we have towards ‘Freebies’?

That feeling is unmistakable. Seeing a freebie coming my way, my eyes light up, there is a warm feeling in the deep recesses of my heart and my goofy grateful smile says it all.

Remember the mouth fresheners handed over in restaurants and hotels after a meal? They look so enticing in their attractive little pouches – sometimes I feel the meal itself was not such a gastronomic delight as these little freebies at the end of it. After opening and popping a packet or two into my mouth, I find my hand snaking out and picking up the remaining packets to pop into my bag for ‘later’… whatever that means. For, more often than not, later never arrives and during an annual cleaning of my handbag these pop out from its hidden interiors and not remembering how old they are, I have no choice but to toss them into the bin.

The most exciting part of airplane travel has always been the wet wipes handed over by the welcoming air hostesses. Even though I am supposed to pick just one, I always pick up two or three, at the same time giving a sheepish smile to the hostess. I use one and in my bag go the remaining wipes. They are tucked away safely in my dressing table drawer to gloat over till I need them… which is never. But woe betide if I do decide to finally use one of them one fine day, only to discover that the previously deliciously scented wet wipe has now miraculously been converted into a crackling piece of thin, dry paper. Surprise!

Hotel stays are the most exciting for me. You know those enticing little bottles, all lined up in a neat row on the bathroom shelf? Well, those are what I check out as soon as I enter the room. And that familiar fuzzy feeling warming up the cockles of my heart makes an appearance all over again. I know what you’re about to say… yes, I agree I have a tiny stash from my previous travels already lined up in my bathroom shelf but these new ones look so pretty, compared to the old lot which to me has started looking quite tacky.

‘Yours, all yours!’ they seem to be saying to me. ‘Pick us up!’ Are my eyes playing tricks on me or are these little bottles actually tottering towards me? So before I even unpack, I find myself gathering them up and popping them into my bag for them to be replenished later by the hotel staff, as I know they will. And of course you do know the fate of the new lot too, don’t you?

I honestly don’t know what I will do with the little shampoo and conditioner bottles as I definitely have no intention of changing my present brand (pretty bottles notwithstanding)! And I don’t use conditioner. Is that a questioning look I see in your eyes? Stop right there! I don’t know the answer to the question you were about to ask!

The cute little rectangular (and sometimes square or round) slivers of soaps wrapped in their pretty covers will remain inside my bathroom cupboard, till they become soggy with moisture and I throw them out in disgust. Or, if they are in mint condition, I may take one with me if I travel again, but then again, I will get more tiny slivers of beautifully wrapped soaps wherever I stay… and seriously, why would I substitute this little sliver of soap for my daily one?

So, why do I pick these toiletries up if I have no intention of using them?  I honestly have no answer. Like I said before, maybe it’s in my DNA. Maybe I feel the need to stock them for a rainy day… just in case.

And don’t get me started on those tea bags in their colourful packets with exotic sounding names – Mystical Assam Black Tea, Emerald Green Tea, Darjeeling Muscatel… the list is endless. Of course I brew myself a cup of this mysterious tea all the time wondering what unknown flavours will tickle my palate and needless to say it tastes delicious! I don’t have to tell you what I’m going to do next…but I will. So, I call up housekeeping and ask for some more of these fancy teas. Yes, you guessed right…for later!

But guess what? Once I’m back home and I dip the same tea bag into hot water for my evening tea, it doesn’t taste half as nice. Is it the water? Or the weather? Or the fact that I’m not on holiday anymore?

Oh, well! I shrug all these thoughts aside and brew myself a cup of my all time favourite Darjeeling Long Leaf Tea and take a deep, long breath, like they show in tea commercials. Aaaaah, or Wah! Taj, Lipton, Brooke Bond…as the case may be.

While we’re on the topic of hotel stays, you know those white towel slippers that are placed discreetly inside the bottom shelf of the wardrobes? Well, guess what? I like to take those back too… just in case. It’s a different matter that once I reach home and I begin unpacking, I wonder why I brought them back in the first place. But then I shrug that thought aside and I toss the slippers into a cupboard. Yes, I do know their fate. During my annual cleaning mission, they will be handed over to the house help… and I will totally ignore the incredulous look on her face as she first looks at them and then at me.

‘Why me?’ she seems to be asking. ‘What have I done to deserve this? Don’t you like me anymore? And are you seriously expecting me to thank you? I still have the ones from last year. I know I’m your go to girl for all the freebie hand–me–downs but this is a bit much, don’t you think?’

Her baleful stare speaks volumes.

Oh, well. A little tweak to the song by Jesse Johnson and it’s clear as the light of day… “It’s a free(bie) world, and it’s mine!”

(Ratna Manucha is an author and educationist)