I found two books today in my library that I had no idea I had: Wide Sargasso Sea, and Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I have no memory of buying them – I hadn’t even heard of Jean Rhys until last week – so, absolutely surprised, I opened the books to find them addressed to me by an ex-boyfriend, and then, of course, I remembered:
In the story Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, the guest Khoja Huseyn, who has hidden the thieves in the oil jars, refuses to eat anything with salt in it – for salt is an unwritten pact of faithfulness. In India, even now, one of the biggest insults is to call someone namak harām, the one who has betrayed someone’s salt : a couple of years ago, in Calcutta, my parents had an overnight guest, who refused to have anything salted. My mother said that she was up most of the night remembering the story.
He had insisted that he must write something on the books, that he couldn’t give them to me without inscribing something on them.
I really didn’t understand it, but since then I cannot trust people who gift me books uninscribed.