Monday, April 16, 2018
“There’s someone at the gate who’s come to wish you for Christmas, Saheb,” said the bearer.
“All right, send him in,” said my father.
The man walked towards the verandah with a small basket of fruits in his hands, a floppy cloth bag slung over his shoulder and a wide smile on his face. Dad recognized him to be a small business contractor; someone he had given a contract to, which he had done well.
“Saheb, thank you so much for giving me the contract. It has helped my business grow tremendously! Merry Christmas, Saheb!” he said, handing over the basket of fruit to my father.
It was customary for rich business contractors to bring gifts for the manager of the garden during Christmas, as a token of their gratitude for the contracts they had been given over the year. These gifts were usually large baskets of fruits, some chocolates for the baba-logs, and heavily iced Christmas cakes. (It was a known fact that some ‘gifts’ were offered in envelopes, but Dad would have none of that!) He accepted the fruit and other eatables, as refusing them would have been considered insulting to the giver. During the Christmas and New Year season, the pantry area would resemble a fruit market. Some of the fruit and cakes were distributed among the domestic staff. The rest would be eaten by us or converted into jams, jellies and marmalades by Mum, which would last for the year ahead. (Mum’s orange marmalade won many prizes when exhibited in the Home Produce section of the Flower Shows held in the clubs.)
“Thank you and Merry Christmas to you too!” said Dad, accepting the basket of fruit. The man hesitated and then delved into the bag and pulled out a couple of ducks. “For you, Saheb! I am sorry I could not get you anything else. Please accept this small gift from me.”
“Really, there’s no need for this,” said Dad, refusing as politely as he could, not wanting to hurt the man’s feelings. The man persisted with his offering and refused to go until Dad relented and struck a deal with him. “I will keep one of the ducks on condition that you take back the other and enjoy a good Christmas meal with the family,” said Dad. The man finally agreed, handed over one of the ducks, put the other back into his bag and left.
Thankfully, the duck never made it to our dinner table as he was promptly named, and no animal with a name was allowed to be served at the table.
And that’s how Ducky came to live a long and happy life in the Kakajan Burra Bungalow!