‘Tum bhi kismis rakhta hai?’ Asked my domestic help as he finished the day’s chore. ‘Kismis?’ Where did he find kismis in the kitchen? I hadn’t used raisins in my cooking recently. Or had I? I jogged my memory and concluded, almonds, yes. But raisins? No. ‘Kismis…?’ I grimaced. ‘Kismis…kismis, woh pedd,’ he said, pointing at the Christmas tree in the living room. ‘Ah!’ I exclaimed. A swift chuckle replaced the initial grimace and I fought hard to suppress it. ‘Pehli baar rakha hai. Acha hai na?’I asked. ‘Haan acha hai,’ he said casually. His voice was devoid of any appreciation. I felt as if all the labour of putting up the table top tree had gone in vain. He must have seen bigger and better trees in other homes; this for him is piddling, I thought with dismay. Then, after a short silence, he struck the final nail in the coffin. He asked, almost mockingly, invalidating all my education, ‘Madam, tum kismis nahi samjhtha?’ I waited for the shock of the sudden affront to pass and said firmly, as if to make a point. ‘KISMIS NAHIN, CHRISTMAS.’ ‘Haan, wohi. KISMIS,’ he said with added emphasis. A little, ornamented Xmas tree some feet away must have laughed in its sleeve at this odd, Boxing Day bout between an illiterate man’s blameless conceit and an educated woman’s bruised pride. I am thinking of this cute confrontation now as I toss down a piece of delicious fruit cake that my neighbor gave. Christmas. Kismis. Fruit cake. Together, they seem to make some odd sense now.
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