My parents bring the most wonderful things each time they visit!
This time these include two antique kente cloths from Ghana; gold and green and woven rather than printed like the cheap tops sold as souvenirs to tourists in Africa these days. They blaze with colour as they have never been outside a box for more than a few minutes and are as specific to the tribes of Ghana as the tartans are to the clans of Scotland. They join the one I already have, all three given to Bwana Doctor when he left Ghana in the seventies.
Then there is a Madonna and child in wood, her eyes half open yet all seeing, from the missionaries at Matigara in North Bengal that was again given to him as a gift sometime in the eighties. There is a heavy rosewood Dhanalakshmi from the South, her face wreathed in benevolence and the lotus in her hand lifelike from the expertise of the unknown artisan.
There is a sandalwood Shiva and Parvati from when my parents honeymooned in Mysore and Bangalore who will join the silver pair I already have. The scent of sandalwood is fading but still there in a laughing Buddha, also from the South, bought long before Feng Shui meant the mushrooming of them in every living room and taxi cab. Oddly, he has one pierced ear and an ivory earring….very hip!
But the most remarkable thing they brought this time is a little velvet box with a discreet eagle embossed in gold. Inside sits a gold eagle and a medal, my father’s Order of Merit from the German government. This was given in recognition of his services to leprosy care in India. This was given to him in the nineties. I wish they had brought the citation along, the medal needs to be stored with that. What I also wish is that the Indian government had recognised his services in the twenty years since then. After all, it was leprosy in India that he worked to fight.
But then he would be the first person to say:
‘Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana.’
‘You must work but without thought of what benefit will come to you’