Editor’s Note: It is nice to give gifts to people we love during special occasions. But sometimes it does tend to go overboard. Especially with the status tags that surround a gift giving ceremony. And then there are choices that need to be made. Have you ever faced a situation like this? Share your story with us here. Our member twinsmom has one such tale for you.

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. Had their names not been engraved, it would have made it so much more easy 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 ‘disappearing’.  But how many flasks do you need in a lifetime? You can’t simply fall ill so 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? No!  ‘They’ll print like that. But how can we go and eat for free at the wedding?’ Deeming that 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 also 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 did not end up with dozens of cutlery sets or crystal bowls. Well, he wasn’t very convinced and 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!

I love presenting children with books. And I love doing that good and early, so that kids grow up seeing books around them thus 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 an umpteen number of 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 too.

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 and 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 and not the cost incurred.

With a 25th 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’. Now every year he gives me cards with roses on them. Sigh! You can’t win ’em all!