A few weeks ago, my friend and colleague Syed returned from Saudi Arabia after spending nearly a month with his father there. He brought me a gift, a metre long, flat piece of wood with a curved head. The head had deep grooves sawed in that made the whole thing look like a human hand without a thumb. He had purchased from a curio shop in Riyadh after he found a similar one at his father’s home. The wooden hand was meant to scratch one’s own back where the human hand does not reach. Unusual it may sound but Syed brought me a very thoughtful gift. Months ago, when we were having an idle chat, I was telling him of my troubles with the muggy hot summer of Chennai. The weather made me sweat profusely and caused prickly heat on my back right in the middle (on the spine). In a bid to generate some humour, I narrated how difficult it was to scratch my back. Syed remembered it the moment he saw the wooden hand at his father’s place. He found the shop that sold it and bought it just for me. Ever since, the hand has always been a faithful companion to me when I am at home.

One of the most ridiculous gifts I had received was a wall clock. I have heaps of them- all gifts. Some of them were good initially but the Chinese craftsmanship soon emerges and one day I found my current clock running an hour ahead! I tried adjusting it. Two hours later it was back to its naughty game. I gave up. With a wristwatch, cell phone, computer and 24 hour TV to tell you the time, clocks have become ornaments. Yet the single most common wedding gift one gets is a nasty clock. The second most useless gift would be photo albums or frames. Seriously, what am I to do with 22 photo albums that I got as a gift on my wedding? All my photos are on my computer or a DVD.

Speaking of wedding gifts, I had to be a part of this Great Office Collective Wedding Gift Committee with great reluctance many times. Pool up money and buy something useful for the poor bride/groom. Pressure cookers, steel cupboards, microwave ovens, food processors, even bed and mattress! The choice has to be made by the committee consisting of the recipient’s colleagues who pool up not more than Rs 100 or so to accumulate into something big! I wonder how a groom would appreciate the spanking new idli cooker with just wedded wife arresting all his attention. Yet the masses never give up. This whole collective bargain system beats my objective of gifting. It just reduces buying a gift as a formality and absolves all those penny pinchers from the hard task of spending value for value. I would rather stick to the cash gift/voucher thing. It is more practical for both sides. I have deliberately not discussed the Office Collective Gift Scheme of jewellery. I would digress badly and turn nasty!

But why should one wait for an event to buy a gift? If a gift is a personal statement why treat it like college wall graffiti? An occasion might be apt for a gift but the exclusivity is lost. The key to a woman’s heart is an unexpected gift at an unexpected time. That is not my line but one from the movie Finding Forrester starring Sean Connery. Well I never looked for a key to a woman’s heart even though I made gifts to women before. But the words-“unexpected gift at an unexpected time” sound true for anyone. How could I expect Syed to gift me a back scratch one fine day? The act of buying a gift is equally interesting. So why does one buy a gift for someone? If it were a woman, probably the key to her heart. But why does one buy a gift for a friend, a relative, a teacher, even a stranger? Well I buy a gift because it is there. I have no pre-conceived notions to pack into a gift. It just happens. Like the book on potted plants I spied in a book store. I just bought it as I felt it would make a fine gift to someone like my mother. Most of the time, I just happen to chance on something that reminds me of someone and I buy it for them. That is the way to gift. Not planning to give a gift and landing at a curio shop to buy something apt (and cheap).

Some of my favorite gifts include a pair of jeans. Nothing can go wrong with a pair of jeans. Everybody has one and yet would love to have another one. Jeans are tough and long lasting. They make an excellent personal statement for one both-a smart thing to give or receive. Jeans just absolve embarrassments.

Potted plants! Now that is one lovely gift you can think of, especially a flowering plant. Better than just flowers that wilt in a day. Potted plants live. They are the safe pets for some who cannot afford to receive a pet puppy as a gift. But it would not go down well with some people, like your unkempt bachelor male friend (or a cow). The standard gift for elderly people has been long decided by my family tradition….fruits! Another excellent statement to make. Stay healthy and sweet. Nothing beats the sight of a small basket of fresh and red apples…not even the most elegant roses that look like dead birds a day after. Apples will not last that long either. They would be consumed happily.


1 comment so far

  1. Sridhar Joshi on

    Just what I have always thought and wanting to write about. Gifting is an art in itself, and gifting for no reason at all makes it even more artier. Good one!

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