A couple of family weddings in places other than our hometown saw us travelling to the venue laden with gifts — not merely our own but also presents from friends who could not be there on the happy couple’s big day.
All those gaily wrapped boxes further brightened the flower bedecked lawns and glinted from time to time as revolving lights fell on them. As I watched over that pile of gifts (a designated task with time slots for each ‘watcher’) I thought that the joy of the day was sure to be prolonged as the couple opened each gift and pulled out the surprises within.
From there, it was only natural that I went back in my mind to our own wedding day decades earlier. What a thrill those meticulously labelled and wrapped presents gave us and how we lingered over each: learning a bit about giver from their choice of gift.
I had come from a china and glassware home where we had to move around in the kitchen carefully, taking our time over table settings before meals and table clearing after them. Dishes had to be laid down gently whichever direction they travelled in and they had to be handled with a firm grip when covered with soap. Not at all to my liking. Prolonged careful treatment just did not suit my hurried and rough ways and I was dubbed a bull in a china shop and castigated through all my attempts to help out.
Why I continued to help and be allowed to help escapes me now, but probably the criticism was well-meaning and kept up on a continuous basis to remind me to control my jerky movements.
For my own home, therefore, I fully intended to do as I pleased (dance and jump in the kitchen or beside the dining table and toss around dishes as often as I liked), and I imagined rows of steel plates and bowls and tumblers — all perfectly capable of taking a tumble without shattering! They could be thrown straight from the dish rack to the person in charge of ‘setting’ them out on the mats; when carried in impossibly high piles, a few of them could be allowed to slip out and fall on the floor without creating a major disaster area; they could be heaped up after a meal and scoured with one giant movement in a basin full of suds; they could be swept up in another single action into a extra large dish cloth and stacked haphazardly to drain: ah, what couldn’t be done with steel!
It seemed like the guests at our wedding had heard my silent wishes for we received steel, steel and more steel. For decades, therefore, those dishes have been used (and by some standards, misused), but for me they have been the most valued presents possible for I was gifted with extra hours in which to dream and do all the things I would not have been able to had I been tiptoeing around with crystal and china!
And best of all, I also get to recall each person when I use ‘their’ dish. That is how, through the decades, it has been possible to remember Mukta on a daily basis because of her steel salt and pepper and spice containers, I think about Anita whenever I set out the curd in her fluted bowl ... and so on through a list of names that have come to be a part of my daily life.
Enduring memories — thanks to those rows of sparkling and enduring steel!
Cheryl Rao is a journalist based in India.