George Uncle was a grey haired, kindly, good-looking gentleman, who ran the cafeteria at the airport where my father worked. Sometimes Baba would take me and my brother there to watch airplanes land and take off. But an even bigger attraction for us were the delicious treats that George Uncle loved to surprise us with on such occasions – ice cream, pastries, a plate of chilly chicken or even mango custard!
Christmas was another occasion made special with a rich, gooey chocolate cake sent by him. We waited impatiently for Baba to arrive home every Christmas eve, knowing there’d be something for us.
All these treats were welcomed with a quiet smile by Ma, so it was a great mystery to us why she began to hyper ventilate when one Christmas eve Baba sheepishly handed her a packet of home made sausages.
“Chee! Chee! Chee!” (Everything must be repeated thrice for dramatic impact — my mother knew this successful formula even before Ekta Kapoor, the queen of TV soap operas stumbled upon it.)
This was followed by a pregnant pause.
Then, in a calmer, sterner voice, reminiscent of my school principal Sister John Berchman, she said, “Phele dao. Ekhuni!” (Throw that out! Now!)
Baba looked wistfully at the packet, took one last whiff and disposed of it with a heavy heart.
Needless to say this was a huge shock to me and my brother!
It was the first instance of ‘beef ban’ we had experienced, that too imposed by Ma. Our religion did not permit us to consume beef, Baba explained.
Several years later, as fate would have it, my father was transferred to Cochin, in Kerala by his company. I was shocked to learn that Hindus there consumed beef with relish! The state has people of every religious denomination – Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews and beef is a truly secular food that unites it, just like it’s many festivals.
Onam, for instance, is a harvest festival celebrated by all Keralites regardless of race, religion and creed for over 10 days!
And so, me and my brother received some early lessons in love and generosity from George Uncle and in tolerance, from God’s own country.
This post is the 24th in a series of 26 posts that I am writing throughout the month of April as part of the A to Z challenge 2016.