Inspired by the writer Neil Gaiman, I, too, have been busy these days making a list of things they don’t teach you at school. But mine is an attempt stripped of emotions.
This may irritate Gaiman, but for some reason I am relieved that they don’t teach in classrooms how to become rich — or, for that matter, poor — or how to walk away from someone who doesn’t reciprocate your love.
But it bothers me no end that while we, of a materialistic mentality, are taught to dutifully say “Thank you” when someone gifts something to us, no one exactly tells us how to gracefully say, “Thanks, but no thanks” if we don’t want the present.
Or be sporting when we face such ‘rejections’ if we are the ‘giver’.
Gifts and advice are similar in many ways. Mostly — but certainly not always — they come to those who don’t really need them. Both may come wrapped with the latent, selfish interests of the giver about which the innocent receiver may not know a thing.
And while nobody’s denying that a gift conveys an individual’s affection towards another person — just like ‘concern’ comes riding pillion with ‘advice’ — the recipient is under no obligation to accept it. Or even using it after accepting it.
But most of us — and certainly not all of us — have faced those awkward situations, when rather than saying (and incessantly repeating) those magical words, “It’s very kind of you, but I am sorry. I won’t be able to accept this”, we end up flushed, trying to either change the topic of conversation or excuse ourselves to grab another drink.
This arises mostly because we are busy contemplating whether the giver of the gift will take even a polite rejection positively. And mostly — but certainly not always — they don’t take it positively.
Come on, it’s neither illegal nor insulting to turn down a gift. Maybe the potential recipient sees through your intention of bribing him with an expensive present and, thus, refuses to be a part of any quid pro quo.
Perhaps anger outweighs ‘compensation’ and declining the gift also becomes a way of sending across a message. But in most cases — and again, certainly not in all cases — there’s a simple logic that helps us make the choice: we don’t need the present.
So giving a delicious yet fattening cake to a person on a diet, a pair of pink trousers to a homophobic man, a bottle of top notch wine to a teetotaler or a skull cap to Narendra Modi are clearly pointless. They won’t value the present and perhaps that’s all about there is to the ensuing rejection.
And, of course, don’t we all enjoy the utter freedom to say, “Thanks, but no thanks”?