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The Woes of Giving Gifts

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by twinsmom, Sep 29, 2007.

  1. twinsmom

    twinsmom Silver IL'ite

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    Recently, someone in the family got married and as usual there were discussions and debates as to what to give as a gift to the newlyweds. Back home, it is all cut and dried: Gift for acquaintances? RS. 50 or 100 depending on the proximity of acquaintanceship. Relatives? Again depending on the degree of closeness Rs.100, or 500…. Or sometimes just a steel bowl wrapped in ghastly magenta wrapping paper!

    It is funny how people just can’t be original or creative when it comes to picking gifts. In the 70’s and 80’s, at the end of a typical wedding reception the couple would have been gifted with half a dozen milk cookers and as many thermos flasks… When Milton Plastics captured the market, it used to be those familiar casseroles AT every wedding. Somehow Milton Plastics almost succeeded in putting the spanner in the works of steel vessel shops. I remember accompanying the elders to shops where steel vessels of varying sizes and weight would be inspected by them and once, selected, the salesman would engrave the donor’s name thus ensuring that the recipient doesn’t get rid of that particular gift in his or her life term. I don’t think anyone engraved their names on those ‘<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:City><st1:place>Miltons</st1:place></st1:City>’ making it easier for the couple to trade it back for something more useful.

    I suppose the ‘buy back’ option is rather good. I mean, how many milk cookers do you need? Or pressure cookers… or table fans? Two or three sets of cutlery, we can hold on to….as spoons and forks have this nasty habit of ‘disapparating’ ( yeah….I am a diehard Rowling fan too…) but how many flasks do you need in a lifetime… You can’t simply fall ill often so that you can put them to good use. The uselessness of many so called ‘gift’ items makes one appreciate those people who print on the wedding invitation cards “Presents in the form of your presence only.” But do people listen to such sincere appeal? Nope! ‘They’ll print like that…how can we go and eat for free at the wedding?’... deeming what you give as a wedding present, a payment for the food you partake.

    Some families maintain records of what has been given to them by others on various occasions. This Master Folio is brought out of the archives, dusted and opened for reference before deciding on a gift to a particular family… Here the guideline is ‘Do unto others what has been done unto you!’ Sometimes there is also the game of one-upmanship wherein you try to outdo what has been done unto you… It is all a game…

    There is a practice of giving gold jewellery as gift among us Indians. When it is a wedding in the family, if it is a girl’s wedding, you are expected to give gold. Whether you want to give gold coins or some piece of jewellery is left to you. With the Gulf money flowing in and trends being set up, it has all become a showy affair. I do feel that the most ideal gift for newlyweds is money. The problem is, neither the bride or the bridegroom will get the money… It will all be balanced against expenses incurred…

    There is a very sensible way the westerners go about with this wedding present business. My husband was puzzled when his British colleague handed him a list of things that he and his bride would love to have as wedding gifts. Since it was the first time for him, he thought it was pretty quirky. When I told him that I was aware of such customs, he didn’t believe me… I had to tell him that since my teens I have been hooked to various genres of books and have read about many things that very ‘un-Indian’. I explained to him it made perfect sense to circulate a list so that the couple do not end up with dozens of cutlery sets or crystal bowls. Well, he wasn’t very convinced… thought it was rather ‘crude’ to ask for something as a gift. Where is the element of surprise or joy when you open the gifts? He asked. I said it was better than the dismay and resignation they may feel on receiving totally useless things…

    As far as I am concerned gifts should be useful, and they should also be selected considering the personality of the individual. Of course, given a chance, I would gift everyone with books… but once I know someone is a detester of books, I wouldn’t waste a good book on them…I wouldn’t waste even a bad book on them! Books ought to be treated with respect!

    I love presenting children with books. And I love doing that good and early, so that kids grow up seeing books around them…leading them to ultimately start reading them. Of course, I don’t gift books to newborn babies ( though I do feel like giving the new moms some Baby book…) or for a first or second birthday… Those are meant for toys. In fact, I consider toys the ideal gift for kids till they are about seven or eight. I hate giving money to kids. Either the parents take it away, defeating the whole purpose of the gift, or the kids become too money- minded too early in life. Of course, kids should have value for money and learn to save instead of blowing it all away, but nothing grates more than a child who declares loudly to her Mom or Dad that she or he owes him so much!

    But even kids’ birthdays can be very frustrating. I remember my kids getting so many sets of Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly and Scrabble sets… and umpteen Doctor sets, Kitchen sets and Magic kits… Okay, you think. I can hide some of these and use them to give away to the kids who celebrate their birthdays… But there may be a series of slips between the cup and lip in this matter. First of all, your kid will say ‘This is mine and I am not giving it away.’ Secondly, however sweetly you make them understand and even bribe them not to open the gifts till the party is over, by the time you see the last person out, there is a heap of wrapping paper near your kid who has in record time managed to open all his gifts… And you don’t even know who has given what…and cannot afford to give back a gift, by mistake, to the kid who gave it to yours in the first place.

    Getting gifts for the generation next has become quite a challenge. I get flummoxed when I have to pick birthday presents for my nephew and niece. What can you get a youngster who has the latest Play Station and all kind of game cartridges? Today’s kids are well equipped with the latest gadgetry and all kind of gizmos that we used to consider as trappings of adult life. When I was young, I had to pass my SSLC to get a watch as a coming of age present! Today a six year old has a selection of watches to sport. In fact, watches are passé… ten and twelve year olds have their own mobile phones now…and IPods … I remember giving my neighbour’s one year old son a multi coloured Funskool truck that clanged and tooted as you pulled it along… I had picked up a small Power Ranger toy for his six year old elder brother, not wanting to disappoint him. The next day, my neighbour told me that the little one was fascinated by the Power Ranger and grabbed it from his brother’s hands and was just not interested in the truck that clanged! Yeah… times are changing!

    I remember how thrilled I used to feel when someone gave me an Enid Blyton when I was young. Today, kids prefer the ghastly Goosebumps to a Secret Seven or Famous Five. Tastes are changing… My 6 year old nephew watches Goosebumps on his favourite channel called Pogo. I was shocked… I hate watching horror serials and movies even now!

    Gifting people with clothes can be dicey! There is no guarantee that the recipient will like what you give and wear it. In fact, my husband’s aunt is famous for re-trading the saris given to her by her relatives or students… If she doesn’t like the colour or texture of the sari, she’d ask the person who has given her the gift where she got it from and exchange it. Or she would palm it off to others. I have been hurt by relatives who did that to me. When I pick a gift for someone, I do it with a lot of care and consideration for that person…and if I see that my gift is given away to someone else, I’d rather not get anything the next time. I value the gifts I receive. I use them…I see to it that I don’t lose them… I don’t go around telling people…” Remember this? You gave me this…” For me any gift is valuable. That is why I have folders full of greeting cards and hand made cards and small keepsakes given by my students. I just can’t bear to throw them out. They do clutter my shelves… but I cherish each one of them.

    Accepting gifts gracefully is an art in itself. Of course we do say, “You shouldn’t have!” when we receive a gift… that is not admonitory… it is perfunctory and the donor should not commit the error of taking it for granted and never offering any more gifts. Of course, being over enthusiatic about a gift you have received also lacks class. Cooing and wah- wahing over a gift too much can have a negative effect. Another thing that grates is when a recipient opens gift, appreciates it and asks how much it cost! What matters is the thought behind the gift….not the cost incurred.

    With a 25<SUP>th</SUP> anniversary due next year, I wonder what I should do… For all you know I may have to give loud hints ( even to my own better half) about what I’d rather have than grin and bear it later on… There is enough time to worry about that! Or is there? Long back, just for fun I had made a list of the things I’d love to get as gifts. RP found it… He’s not much of a reader… So I can excuse his interpretation of things there. I’d written ‘ Red roses’… Every year he gives me cards with roses on them… Sigh! You can’t win ’em all!

    So instead of getting the newly weds another dinner set or a cuckoo clock, we just asked them to pick something up for the home they are setting up and pass the bill to us. It seemed to be the sensible thing to do. Well, I could have given them the complete works of J.K Rowling…or Conan Doyle… or even Shakespeare… RP could have picked up wonderful Tool kit complete with a WD 40… but we decided to be different this time. Of course, I am not planning to tell the neighbour’s kid to go to Toys R Us and pick something and let me pick the tab up…. That’d be downright stupid! Besides, I do enjoy picking up gifts for kids…
     
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  2. krish22

    krish22 Senior IL'ite

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    Hi ,

    Good topic and it is very irritating to pick the gifts sometimes.when it comes to a visit to India from abraod to gift relatives and friends is atidious task.I heard my friend's relatives one asking for latest model cell phone and another asking for goldbars etc...I am blessed in this case as me and my husband have non expectant relatives.
     
  3. Jananikrithsan

    Jananikrithsan Gold IL'ite

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    Dear Twinsmom,
    That was a very good middle. You are right when you say that money is the best gift but sometimes it never reaches the bride or the groom, what to do then? Evem when you are careful while buying gifts, you cannot please everyone. Great Post!!!!
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2007
  4. malspie

    malspie Platinum IL'ite

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    I think of unique gifts... the other day when my friend got married, I gifted them "Exhaust Fan". They were very happy. A portable music system, ofcourse all this only when they are close to us. Else, now a days, I gift them with Cadburys Chocolate boxes during birthdays, and during weddings, I gift them with 1gm gold jewellery for women.
     
  5. Shanvy

    Shanvy IL Hall of Fame

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    hi TM,

    Giving gifts and Accepting them both are art. The manner in which the gift is given is more of value than the gift to me.

    If it is our friends kids, we keep track of what the kids want..if they talk about it sometimes. mostly it happens at the other friends' birthday. so we know what to gift them. if we are not aware then it is always books based on their ages. But as you said times are changing.

    In case of marriages, we follow the same cash in the envelope trends....than the other gifts. but veda feels that we have to give a personal touch to the gifts, we do give very carefully selected gifts according to our judgement of the couple..but how far they liked it is a ???? .....unless we also get list of what the couple need later...:?. I tell him we will just get the gift voucher and give it to them...(It is an argument between us....as there is a marriage in november)

    we have the habit of gifting the newly married couple after the marriage...the bride gets a silk saree and the bridegroom gets dhoti/shirt along with lunch at home.this is a tradition we follow irrespective of them being our relatives/friends.
     
  6. kanaka Raghavan

    kanaka Raghavan IL Hall of Fame

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    Nice post.It is better to give cash to distant relatives.But to closer ones I feel there should be some personal touch.I love to shop around and buy.It is better to give gifts than cash as people tend to remark on how much ever cash is given and are not satisfied.What ever be size it is the thought that matters...............
     
  7. Kamla

    Kamla IL Hall of Fame

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    A very thought provoking article Twinsmom !

    It is easier in Europe and America...Opening a gift -register for marriages is a done thing. Some stores register and build a corner with all the gift items the young pair wishes for their nuptials. Though it may sound odd to people who don't know about this custom, it is one useful idea.......May as well give the couple what they wish and need instead of another Vase!
    In Europe, people don't shy away from informing what their child needs or wishes for Birthdays. There was a time I bought and hoarded 'nice and useful presentation articles' when I saw something on a good offer in the stores!!! I soon realised that they just resided with me for I could not give any as I had a clear knowledge of what was wished!! Ha ha, yes, sometimes it can become a double edged sword !
    I am wiser now and besides when you get into my age group...all your acquaintances have everything they need and are vigorously avoiding collecting junk !!!! So, these days, a pleasant smelling and lovely looking bunch of flowers do !! It is another matter that these bunches also cost a mini fortune !:icon_frown:

    L, Kamla
     
  8. Mahajanpragati

    Mahajanpragati Platinum IL'ite

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    dear friends,
    these days pooling of money too is going on to buy a big & better gift.during my marriage all my paternal relative like chachi,bua,tai pooled money & gave me a lovely neclace set instead of individually going on for ear-rings,finger ring etc.this concept i am using to gift nearly everyone close to us.ofcourse to casual aquantiances this should be avoided unless it is in office etc.
    the trend of gift voucher too is very good.that way too one is able to buy things of choice .
     
  9. Vandhana

    Vandhana Silver IL'ite

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    Dear TM,

    That was a wonderful middle. I still remember, i got no less than a dozen milton hot packs and clocks for my wedding:bangcomp: :bangcomp: !! And we really did not know what to do with it. Even with hanging a clock in every room in the house including the bathrooms, we had a few to spare!

    These days, yes i too follow the book giving for young children. Or I give them a gift card to the book store. I love the western concept of having a gift registry . If all the things in the gift registry have been bought , then i give the couple concerned a gift voucher from an exclusive restaurant or something like that... These things are greatly appreciated by people here. Even kids, other than the usual toys and books and clothes, ihave found that if you give them a gift card to pizza hut or some other favorite resaurant of theirs, they are so happy.
    Now days the gift stuff has come down to the Navarthri and nombu vethalai pakkus too..... I have too many of the kumkum boxes and likes lying around.:cry:

    Vandhana
     
  10. Anandchitra

    Anandchitra IL Hall of Fame

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    Another good post TM. Its interesting to read the way you write about gifts.
     

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