Sunday Humour: If you’re bad at gifting, read this!
There’s no escaping it. Christmas cheer comes with a price tag.
But even the sattvik among us occasionally enjoy the conscience-addling effects of the holiday season. ‘Tis the season for store-bought jolliness. Like a child who’s seen Santa’s fake beard fall off but continues to write him imploring letters, my frequent protests about the gifting epidemic often end up in meek submission. A last-minute dash to the generic ethnic chic store, or retail bookshop, yields expected “delights”. It’s safe to say no one’s really enthusiastic when I approach them with a gift bag.
It’s probably hereditary. My very eccentric father, may his itinerant soul rest in peace, once gifted me a tea mug with a 10-dollar bill printed on it. A regulation gift shop item, one would think, if not too fatherly. But here’s the clincher. Its contents were very curious indeed. Three independent tea bags, dangling tantalisingly. With this, his explanatory words: “Because you like tea.” There’s another gifting story from my older sister’s childhood that’s slightly more charged with meaning. Father decided to gift daughter a birthday cake. But since it was the business end of December, the pre-written inscription read: Merry Christmas! An awkward time was had by all. For his significant mother, my grandmother, he had a sweet weapon in his armoury. A bag of mangoes with a conciliatory note, routinely following one of their legendary battles.
I seem to have inherited the gifting gene from him. I’ve presented a couple with a ship-shaped lamp for their wedding. A can of ginger ale to a friend growing older. Plenty have received books they’ve never shown interest in before or since. It’s the thought that counts, I suppose. These days my thoughts veer towards vouchers. They might not be the most personal, but they’re an improvement on the windscreen cleaners and egg whisks that attract me with their giftability.
Carry On, Jeeves
Like many clueless gifters, I make an excellent giftee. On my last birthday, an aunt emptied the local chemist of all its balms, pain-relieving oils and sprays. I can now change the smell of my migraine at will! About a decade ago, a friend elicited a thrilled reaction when he presented me with a didgeridoo. Yes, the long, hollow indigenous Australian wind instrument that you blow into to make a long and deep sound. I still don’t get the significance, but that’s the most extravagant, if bizarre, thought that anyone’s put into a gift for me.
Then there was the year I was expecting a frying pan from a partner but was gifted a fancy laptop. Full credit to said partner for enduring my ungracious reaction on a stormy birthday eve. A visiting granduncle once said to me at a bookshop: “Pick whatever you want.” But such generosity can be crippling. I left the store with a single P.G. Wodehouse title. I still wonder what treasures I could have left with that day, and it’s been over 20 years!
Brown paper packages
Every family has a gifting genius. In ours, it’s my older sister. Hers is a winning combination of thoughtfulness, creativity and enterprise. Calligraphic poems in exquisite frames. Photo montages of trips. Redecorated boxes filled with personalised mementos. The list of her gifting talents is long, and in stark contrast to my inadequacies. Of all people, I see the spirit of giving in her gifts. They must match the giftee, reflect the relationship and fit the mood of the moment. (I think I’ll gift her two chocolates this year.)
There’s one present that stands out in this kaleidoscope of gifting memories. It was a summer vacation in the early ’90s, days of endless play and frequent boredom. I remember running to the window with my younger sister after hearing the iron gates downstairs creaking open. It was afternoon and mother was returning home from errands, lugging something unwieldy under her arm. A brown paper package tied up with string – like in the Julie Andrews song. It was a carom board! And in one strike, the holidays had been dealt with. I hope to delight someone with an unexpected and cherished gift like that some day. I have my sights set on a vase shaped like a rocket.
From HT Brunch, December 23, 2018
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