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 Passing the Parcel

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By Ratna Manucha

‘I love Diwali/Christmas/birthdays. I receive a lot of wonderful presents which I can’t wait to re-pack and re-gift my friends’ – Anon.

“It’s the Mehtas’ anniversary tomorrow,” mumbles Boss Man as he peers up from the important job of forwarding unimportant messages to his sundry contacts on his sundry WhatsAap groups.

So what am I supposed to do, apart from deciding what to wear? Eeeks! The gift! The gift!

That sets me off into a right royal tizzy. Of course I have a whole lot of presents neatly stashed away on one shelf of my store room … some opened and waiting to be repacked, others slightly opened from one side only just so I can take a peek and decide whether to use or reuse and, still others, which are bereft of their sparkly, shiny wrapping paper and all because it was too cumbersome to open one corner or because, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what was in it.

So what happens next? I stand there in utter perplexity trying to figure out the best gift to give.

This tea set could be a good choice but, Leena, who gave this to me on my birthday, last month, is going to be there, too, and she is sure to recognise the wrapping paper. I could however unwrap it and re-wrap it with another sheet of wrapping paper, but nothing gets past Leena and her eagle eyes. What if she recognises the shape or what if Mrs Mehta discusses her gifts with her, or horrors, what if she serves her tea one day in the very same tea cup? It is highly possible, what with Leena and Mrs Mehta being as thick as thieves. Nah! Too dicey!

What about these crystal glasses … but I can’t seem to remember who gave them to me … was it Mrs Mehta herself?  Or was it Vinita … No, trash that idea. Can’t take a chance!

Should I take this crystal bowl instead? Is that what it is? Maybe I need to unwrap it fully and open it and check what is inside. I remember last Diwali when a dear friend got me a box of chocolates and, when I opened it, there was a neat little triangular card with the gifter’s name. Ooops! I definitely don’t want to be such a ‘gifter’! One has to be slightly smart at such times, to ensure the relationship between the ‘gifter’ and ‘giftee’ is not tarnished!

So heigh ho! Off to work I go. I start with unwrapping the box very carefully. Can’t prise the box open as it has ghastly cello tape on all four sides. So I get up, walk to the kitchen to get a pair of scissors. Wear my glasses and then very carefully snip off the offending tape from the centre. Open the box and check the contents. It’s not as easy as it seems. Someone in their infinite wisdom has stuck the tape half on the wrapping paper and half on the box. No prizes for guessing what happens next. The picture on the box begins to peel off too, to my utter frustration.

“Think smart,” I admonish myself.

So I snip off the cello tape right from the centre. Now there are bits of tape stuck on the box. Ingenuous I will find a way to repack it later, but first things first. I need to check the contents.

Yes. It’s a crystal bowl alright. I take it out and hold it against the light. Nope. No scratches, no cracks. New as a penny. I put it back in the box and place the lid over it. Now comes the tricky part. How to cover the peeled up parts of the box? I take a roll of cello tape which I have very thoughtfully placed on the shelf along with all the gaily wrapped, half wrapped and unwrapped gifts … snip off a piece and very tactfully place it over the old cello tape and smooth it down. I do the same with the other three sides. The next step is to wrap it in a spanking new sheet of wrapping paper, while trying to put tape over the same places – half on the box and half on the paper.

I step back and admire my handiwork. Phew! Time to pat myself on the back!

As a final touch, I stick a card on it, write our names and we’re good to go.

Literally.

(RatnaManucha is an award winning author of fact, fiction and text books for children and young adults. She has also worked as an announcer for All India Radio.)