Mystery of the missing rubber band

Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar   | Photo Credit: Sreejith R. Kumar

I tugged at the rubber band tied around a packet of coriander powder only to have it snap with a ping and zip off like a rocket to land I knew not where. This happened one morning when I was making potato curry; in a hurry, as usual. A rubber band breaking was nothing new, but on all previous occasions it had unerringly found the tip of my nose. My nose, being of less than modest proportions, may not be easy to locate, but the rubber band certainly is, when my face comes in its trajectory and it aborts its travel plans to land painfully on the centre. My quick, protective reflex action helps me secure it.

But that day it took off adventurously in an unknown direction. Had it landed in the curry? I peered closely, then taking the biggest ladle I could find, stirred it carefully. I scooped a ladle full and poured the curry slowly back into the pan, examining it like a hawk to spot any long strand that could be the remains of the band. Was that it? No, it was an unusually long and fine piece of onion, cut in a rare moment of artistry and finesse. Another red herring in the form of a shrivelled chilli gave me some hope until I identified it. Would the rubber band dissolve in the heat, I wondered.

Maybe it hadn't found its final destination in the curry after all. Buoyed up by this reflection I quickly went on all fours in the kitchen. That was how my husband found me when he reached there, seeking breakfast. ‘Er…um… something’s fallen, I'm looking for it,’ I explained. He had guessed as much, he said, it not being my regular practice to navigate in the kitchen on all fours.

The maid breezed in late to find me crawling at my husband’s feet. She was delighted to have arrived at an emotionally charged moment and her face fell when I jumped up to explain. Robbed of drama, she curtly said she would sweep the place carefully and together we guided the broom to hitherto uncharted territories. The exercise yielded two ancient cashew nuts that crumbled on contact, dry curry leaves, drier chillies, a rusty blade and a piece of foul smelling ginger but, alas, no rubber band.

I now decided on an experiment. Wrapping a rubber band tightly around a packet of masala powder, I tried to set it free, so I could observe the direction in which it would fly. It wouldn't even snap, the perverse thing, and remained stubbornly resilient, attaching itself to the packet like its long lost love. It is a truth universally acknowledged that if a rubber band has to break, it will, and conversely, if it doesn't wish to, it won’t.

Another idea struck me. What goes up must come down, but what if the rubber band hadn't? I climbed on a high stool and simulating a dangerous ballet dancer act, tried to examine the tops of the built-in cupboards. I found interesting carcasses of cockroaches and spiders in various stages of decomposition but the dust set me off on a sneezing spree and I abandoned the search...

At breakfast, my husband complimented me on the tasty curry. ‘What did you put in it?’ ‘Er... only the usual. Sometimes when you cook under time constraints, the food turns out tastier,’ I explained, guiltily pleased but still a little apprehensive. Had I serendipitously stumbled upon a delicious variation of the curry? When I ate, I rolled every particle of the serving carefully in my mouth to see if I could chance upon the errant rubber band. For the first time I ate as one is expected to eat, masticating slowly and not swallowing the food in a rush, as I normally do.

Later I asked my husband if eating rubber is dangerous. He looked quizzical, then reminisced, ‘Not likely. Remember our school days when kids who had parents in Malaysia or Singapore brought delicious looking, sweet smelling, translucent erasers to school? They looked so attractive, we would take tiny bites when the owners weren't looking and passed them around.’ Yes, I did. All who had tasted those bits of rubber have survived, probably their insides strengthened, toughened and stretched by the strange ingestion, and now hold responsible posts. The secret of their success. And I have also lived to tell my tale...

(A fortnightly column by the city-based writer, academic and author of the Butterfingers series)


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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 5:38:56 AM |

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