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Graciousness, all but forgotten

Does the size or cost of a gift matter? What's important is being remembered fondly enough that you are given a gift.

india Updated: Jan 20, 2007 18:59 IST
INNER VOICE || M Yusuf Khan
INNER VOICE || M Yusuf Khan

A young executive in my organisation was visibly distraught. In good faith he had given the same New Year gift to a senior official that he gave to his juniors. The gentleman took affront. He considered it beneath his station to receive a present exactly like that given to his subordinates. He not only spoke rudely to our young man but also berated him on his ignorance of protocol.

Just a few months old in the job, my young colleague was very upset. His work demanded regular interaction with the gentleman and his department. He knew that things would be difficult if the official were truly offended. His senior colleagues, instead of offering him solace and advice, seemed to enjoy his plight or so he thought. Full of trepidation he narrated the whole episode to me. It was not just the sense of failure but the humiliation of his gift being turned down that really hurt. A competent professional otherwise, his only fault was that he had offered the same gift to everyone rather innocently, not knowing the norms.

It fell upon me to console him. If only he had consulted me, I would have suggested a bigger gift for the boss, as is the custom. But in reality, whose fault was it? Surely of the system that has made it mandatory for all businesses to queue up at the doorsteps of officials on festive occasions with expensive gifts, each one determined to outdo the other?

All this reminded me of the story of Sudama, the childhood friend of Lord Krishna. Living in abject poverty he was coaxed by his wife to go and meet his old friend, now a king. All Sudama could afford to give was a handful of puffed rice and was embarrassed to offer this paltry gift to the Lord of Dwaraka. But Lord Krishna prised it out of him affectionately and treated that 'lowly' gift as the best present he had ever received. Does this gracious legacy of ours have any place in our present greedy society?