Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Remedy

Have you ever blamed a compliment on your saree  for the blob of malai kofta curry you dropped on the pallu subsequently? The evil eye! Your admirer's  expansiveness turns to guilty dismay, "I should have gushed less!" You recover shakily to assure, "It is alright, I will have it drycleaned, " but the moment is marred. As a rule, Indians have a colicky equation with admiration. We are spasmodic, both at giving and receiving it. How often have you drooled over a friend's silver bracelet only to be hastily assured it is a cheap imitation? She fears your envy! Or doesn't want you to feel any lesser. "What a gorgeous bag!" you exclaim. The wearer splutters, "Oh, it is very old, a hand me down from an aunt." If sounding ungracious helps save mishaps, so be it. We must be the world's most comorbid race. We acknowledge envy exists and  guard ourselves with mantras, chillies, limes, prayers and charms. We spit, make frantic signs, rip white rags into seven strips,  swirl camphor smoke and emanate a range of audio effects to banish ill will. Families store and apply these formulas as traditional, customized arsenal. A runny tummy? Out springs a fistful of rock salt. Falling grades? Water and kumkum. Emotional rejection? Wait, we have the perfect poultice of mustard seeds. And the all time, all favourite Indian domestic deterrent to rival the Tsar Bomba? A black dab from the adoring eye.

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