Saturday, March 25, 2006

Mami here's your gift - Haggis!

Come April and the Sherpa and I will be making our first trip home since coming to London. It’s been a year and a half – the longest I’ve ever been without seeing my family. Excited doesn’t do justice to how I feel right now. It’s almost as though I’m cocooned by a bubble of elation, floating along with not a care in the world (hey I survived a week of Christmas merriment in March didn’t I?)

Going home requires much thought and preparation. Getting the best deal on your tickets, convincing your boss that 3 weeks is not too much vacation to ask for (oh and could I have a couple of weeks off in June too?), thinking of all the things I’ve been deprived of in London – like my mother’s cooking - and making plans to ensure I get enough of it while I’m in Madras. But if there’s one thing that eclipses all these other tasks it’s The Shopping (we should give it the respect it deserves).

I remember as a child, preparation for our annual vacations back to Madras would begin months in advance. One could always tell that The Shopping season was about to begin when our post box became jammed with blue aerogrammes from India and phone calls from Aunties who had not spoken to us since our last jaunt home, telling us how pleased they were that we were coming and how they couldn’t wait to see us (and our luggage I’m sure)

My mother became the family Santa Claus, getting requests from nieces and nephews. Whether they had been naughty or nice they all got what they asked for. Maybelline announced record breaking quarterly profits and Mattel would have gone bust if it wasn’t for our trips home.

Fast Forward 15 years and one would think there’s no need for the going home shopping anymore. After all, there’s hardly anything you don’t get in India these days. That apparently is not the case. As a friend of mine said ‘everyone from the neighbour's servant to the ball boy at The Mylapore Club must be gavunichified or taken care of’.

Now being a pro-shopper I though it would be a cinch doing The Shopping. So I drew up a list of people that I felt should benefit from my largesse and what would be suitable gifts for each of them. Feeling rather smug about my meticulousness I called my mother the Queen Bee of shopping (and the donor of rather outstanding retail loving genes) and boasted about my list. Our conversation went somewhat like this:

‘Oh but what about so-and-so Aunty?’

‘Her? Why do I have to get her anything?’

‘She gave you a silver lamp when you left for London.’

‘I never got a silver lamp.’

‘Oh that’s because I took it and gave it to so-and-so for their wedding.’

And so the list grew and pretty soon included neighbours who had moved in after I left home, third cousins thrice removed and the corner wino Muniyandi. Armed with the list, the sherpa and I headed out. ‘Remember, stay focused’ the sherpa warned. I scoffed at the suggestion that I may be side tracked from my mission (forgetting how well he knows me).

Temptation was everywhere. I would stroke handbags far too young for my 60 plus Aunt and hold up dresses two sizes too small for my neighbour’s daughter (but just right for me!). My husband joked about putting me on a leash and after an hour had to surgically attach his hand to my upper arm (even a saunter through the lingerie department wouldn’t shake him off – and that always works)

Once my roving eye was under control, we faced another problem. Everything was made in India. And the last thing I wanted was to give someone an overpriced t-shirt made in Tirupur only have them to say to me ‘You could have got this for a fraction of the price in Tirupur!’

We pretty quickly realised that other than very high end fashion and food there’s very little actually made in this country. And seeing that none of our orthodox Tam Brahm relatives would appreciate a leg of lamb, roast beef or a Vivienne Westwood corset we began looking for things made in other ‘phoren’ countries. Vietnam! Thailand! China!
A search that yielded much better results than tartan kilts (though I do think they’d make a rather interesting substitute for lungis).

In the last three weekends we’ve managed to amass a small mountain of cheaply made overpriced goods. Almost every name on our list has been crossed off. With the sole exception of Muiyandi the wino. A bottle of Grey Goose perhaps?


smallfontkuttebaspam said...

Aha, welcome to the season of Joy of Giving.
Other than Koolinary Extravaganzaz, long forgoteen, being lined up from Meenakshi Ammal's Samaithu par from the Tanjore side and from the Pattar Rasoi of Malabar, other experiences will also be waiting for you when you travel back to India.
For example you will be amazed at the speed with which the results of many months of shopping will disappear and your Delsey bags will be ready to be filled up again -- this time with sambar podi, vattal and vadam

WA said...

Hey have fun in India, hope you are gonna be back in time to help me with the DIY furniture :)

shub said...

hehe...good one there :)i dread the time i'm gonna face smthng like that...the last time i went home from singapore i was worrying myself sick on how much to spend on chocs n how much to give each aunt/uncle/cousin etc...all this just being a student....cos how can I go back 'empty handed'?
once i find a job...hmmmm! i'll get back to u then for tips maybe!
I have had aunts buying Sarees from CANADA for Mom, believe it or not!

Prerona said...

really identified with this post - but only for the last time i went home. this time i am not taking anything for anyone - just having nightmares with packing my own stuff bcz i'm going back for good -leaving scotland forever :(

MumbaiGirl said...

Have fun. Sooo jealous. Bring back the smell of home.

... said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
... said...

Aaah...I remember those times. It used to be fun - but also stressful sometimes. I had so many people ask me for "Dune" perfume and "Nike" shoes...when I myself would think a hundred times before I bought that stuff for 100-150$!!! And like you said - EVERYTHING I liked was "made in India".

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

sfk - am looking forward to the Koolinary extravaganzaz! but i have enough sambar podi here to last me a lifetime :P

wicked - thanks! I'm only leaving on the 22nd of april, when do you get here?

shub - you shouldn;t have to shop if you're a student - they;re the one's that should be buying you gifts!

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Prerona - Are you going to India? Moving country is not something I enjoy doing. All the best!

Mumbaigirl - thanks! Will bottle the home smell for you :)

Keya - I know what you mean! And hellooo people back home you do get Nike there :P

Siri said...

lol...i remembered my experience in The Gap. I wanted to get trendy western wears for my cousins and picked up quite a few. reached the cash counter and just as the cashier was about to pull off the magnet i happened to notice the label and was zapped to read "Made in India" on almost all the cotton stuff i had picked up. Snatched them all back, said sorry to the lady beat a hasty retreat and burst out laughing.

1$ Saint said... wat u gettin dis meat eatin non tam bram best friend of urs??? lolz...

Mr X said...

See this is why USA has left England way behind. One word : WALMART.

shyam said...

Shoof, you can get vegetarian haggis, y'know. It's really very nice! :)

mumbaiwallah said...

Will it always be Madras for you? Just as it will always be Bombay for me? Mumbai is not a word I particularly like...

We're off to India too for 3 weeks at the end of April. Looking forward to some sunshine (or so I think now...wait till I get there...)


The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

siri - ah The Gap! I didn't even bother :D

1£st - paaya and thundu beedi :P

Mr X - I'm afraid Walmart has invaded this country too - in the form of Asda

shyam - really? I didn;t know that... excellent my athai will get one veggie haggis then!

MW - Yep Madras always and forever...hope you have a wonderful holiday!

... said...

BTW, I just realized....why do you want to travel to India, especially Chennai in April!!! Shoefie, you will melt!! Maybe you've forgotten Indian summers! Good luck...and take care. Drink ONLY bottled water (which BTW is no longer an NRI thingy :-) all desis in des also do it since it's not longer safe to drink any other form of water when you're out).

Arun said...

Cool. All the best. Have a great trip.

anjali said...

hahaha....this is only your first time. you will soon become a pro at it.

Ziploc does the trick for my family. Right from mom-in-law to the nepali gurkha in our building, Ziploc bags and containers are the equalizing factor. Don't you get those in the UK? All mamis LURVE them!

Business said...


Thank you for everything you have taught me on this great
webblog of yours..

make money online

Mali&Madhu said...

What about meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee???????????????????????

tilotamma said...

I don't know why you even bother, really. I travel really light to India , franskly even the backpack is enough for the stuff I take there

cool gifts said...

Great Blog. I'll bookmark it.

Shopping Hannah
cool gifts