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Gift rotation

By Nickunj Malik - May 24,2017 - Last updated at May 24,2017

As kids, I participated in a party game that I absolutely detested. It was called “passing the parcel” and was a childish version of musical chairs, where people walked in a circle till the music played, and sat down when it stopped. But because the chairs were lesser than the participants, the ones who could not find a seat, got out. In the kiddie variety, a packet was passed from one child to another and whoever was left holding the package when the song concluded, had to undertake a punishment.

The penalties were more or less the same and varied between reciting a nursery rhyme, jumping like a rabbit, pulling the ear of the person sitting next to you, sketching a mountain, etcetera. The recitation and hopping bit I disliked intensely but the moment I was awarded the “ear pulling of neighbour” punishment, I got to work immediately, and performed it with tremendous enthusiasm. Understandably, this did not make me very popular. Therefore, when the tables were turned, and I was at the receiving end, my poor ears were not spared either.

Meanwhile, the rule in my house is that if we receive a gift of chocolates or éclairs, we open the packaging, admire the contents, and then carefully repack it to pass it on to whosoever invites us next. Nobody is allowed to eat just one or two sweets, and unless one is ravenous enough to consume the contents of the entire box, one is strongly discouraged from wasting the rest.

I don’t remember exactly who made this regulation but in a parody of my childhood party game, we have successfully rotated the presents diligently, for the last several decades. I often wonder that if other people follow the same caveat, a day might arrive when the parcel, after doing the rounds of several houses, will come back to the sender.

All these memories come flooding back when I am gifted a box of gloriously golden, almond and walnut stuffed dates recently. A product of palm trees, and cultivated for centuries, it is one of the sweetest fruits around and comes in many different assortments. Even though they can be eaten fresh, dates are often dried to resemble raisins or plums. With its lower moisture content, the dehydrated version is a more concentrated source of nutrients than the fresh one.

Now, where dates are concerned, you either love them or hate them, and I belong to the former category. There are very few people who can be indifferent to them as the reaction this simple fruit invokes, can verge on the extreme.

So, when I begin to examine the heavy box, full of delicious dates that is presented to us, I have to exercise all my self control to not break the cellophane covering and eat a couple of them. With a heavy heart I put the lid back and repack the gift to pass it on to my neighbour, who has invited us for dinner.

“Aha! My favourite caramelised dates”, exclaims my friend’s husband as soon as he unwraps the parcel.

“Don’t open the seal, pass it here please”, my friend dictates.

“But you didn’t let me try the ones we got last month too”, he complains.

“Those were stuffed with almonds”, she says.

“So are these! Where did you get them from?” he asks me.

“Peter gifted me, we gifted Paul, Paul gifted you and you gifted us” he chuckles when I don’t answer.

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