MONEY! In today’s society it appears to be the guideline that determines who we are.
When buying a gift, if we like the recipient we budget for it accordingly. The same goes for our sense of satisfaction when we receive a gift; the more expensive it is the greater is our perception of the presenter’s love and/or respect for us.
This then is the true story of ‘Holly Hobbie’….
It was the year 1990. I’d been married just over a year.
Fresh from my residency as a surgical oncologist and just beginning my surgical practice, I was determined to be a ‘good doctor’ and not be swayed by monetary gains. In those early years, my patients consisted mainly of charitable cases and, looking back, the remuneration I received is almost too embarrassing to reveal!
Fortunately my wife was working and I have no qualms in admitting that she supported the family. While I went about chasing the windmills of an almost purely charitable practice, the entire financial burden of running the house fell squarely on her shoulders.
Even with that preamble many of you may find it difficult to believe my budgetary constraints when, in July that year, I set out to buy her a birthday gift.
I had exactly fifty rupees in my pocket. (That’s right, just about 1 dollar!)
Now this was over two decades ago when one did get more bang for the buck. But even by those standards fifty rupees was far from even remotely being considered a princely sum!
Expensive jewellery was definitely out. As were expensive cookbooks (she loved to cook), clothes, perfume, dress accessories, cosmetics; for that matter almost anything one would normally consider giving the wife on her birthday!
I remember walking around the streets of South Mumbai for hours, desperately trying to find something that would squeeze into my pathetic resources.
And that’s when I found ‘Holly Hobbie’.
It was in a store which is similar to a dollar store where every item is priced under a hundred rupees. My first reaction was to take a quick, almost fearful, look at the price tag: Thirty rupees! Whew, that was the first hurdle; well within my budget!
It was a thin spiral bound notebook that consisted of about 50 A4-sized, single-lined pages. On the cover was a picture of a little girl with the words ‘Holly Hobbie’ inscribed in blue across the top.
Now it so happens that my wife’s pet name as a child was ‘Hobbie’.
I can still remember, as if it were yesterday, the surge of elation. YES!! This was it! Thank you God for sending me the perfect gift!
I had the book gift wrapped and presented it to her on her birthday!
I must admit the euphoria I felt at finding what I thought was a meaningful gift was dented considerably by the reaction of relatives and friends who had some really disparaging things to say. And although I can’t remember all their comments verbatim, they pretty much implied the same thing: Cheapskate!
Decades have since passed.
I’d like to think that my commitment to my profession remains the same; my bank balance though, thankfully, has improved, (relatively speaking of course!). And with it, the so-called ‘quality’ of gifts given on subsequent birthdays and anniversaries.
And yet, expensive though the other gifts were, and hard as I may try, I find it difficult to recollect with the same clarity, the circumstances under which they were purchased. What were their price tags? Where were they bought? Or even, what some of them were, many of them having long since been discarded.
The ‘Holly Hobbie’ book on the other hand is still very much around.
My wife uses it as a recipe book. Each time she gets a new recipe she’ll write it down on a new page and it is now almost full. Cuttings from newspapers and magazines on food are inserted between its pages.
It’s pretty worn out by now and stained with constant use and exposure to various cooking ingredients. The cover has torn off but still kept carefully within its pages along with the other cuttings.
Despite it’s shoddy appearance and non-existant monetary value it is handled with a care that’s close to reverence.
To this day it occupies not only pride of place amongst the other culinary and so-called Cordon Bleu books on the kitchen shelf…but also, and more importantly, a very special spot in our hearts as well!
2013 is just around the corner. Here’s wishing you a very Happy New Year!
May the new year bring you prosperity (for, all said and done, money does seem to make the world go round), but may it also give you your own ‘Holly Hobbie’ moments so that you too can savor them in the years to come.