Friday, January 20, 2006

Gifting love...

Heard of the story "Gift of the Magi" by O Henry? Its a touching story, where there is a young couple who love each other very much. They are very poor. Christmas is approaching and they want to give each other gifts, but have no money. The wife wants to buy her husband a gold chain so that he can hang his beloved heirloom gold watch, and not carry it in his pocket, . The husband wants to buy his wife a set of pearl combs for her long, luxuriant, beautiful hair. But neither has the money. Finally the wife sells her hair and buys the chain, and the husband sells his watch and buys the combs. So the wife is left with combs and no hair, and the husband is left with a chain but no watch. Very touching, very heartbreaking story. Fine. But I had never realised, why did they have to give each other the gift in the first place? What is the need? Both of them know that they love each other a lot, and that they don't have money. So why the compulsion?

My parents tell me often of their experiences in Germany. They had made plans to visit a German colleague's mother in another town. On the way, the colleague stopped at a florist and bought a bouquet of flowers to take to his mother. He explained that you should never go empty-handed. How strange! Such compulsions to go and meet your own mother! (Of course, he must have taken an appointment before that!).

I heard of an Indian lady working in the US. On her birthday, she received no flowers from her husband, and her co-workers came to the conclusion that her marriage is on the rocks. Exasperated by their commiserances, she took to sending a bouquet of flowers to herself every birthday and valentine's day and signing her husband's name as the sender. What a pathetic state of affairs!

Ok, I agree, giving gifts is a beautiful concept, it shows that you care. But what irks me is that it is made into a compulsory ritual, a symbol of love, whether you like it or not.

Sandesh and I had our birthdays last month. I did not give him anything, and he did not give me anything. Does that mean we don't love each other? If I had known that he wanted something, but had not bought it, I would have gone and gifted it to him as a surprise. In fact, if I get to know something like that now, I will not wait for an occasion, I will just go ahead and gift it to him anyway! Why the compulsion? Around my birthday, a score of people asked me, "Soooo, what did Sandesh give you for your birthday? Especially, the first birthday after the wedding!" I said, "Nothing!". So they said, "Nothing??" and their faces grew troubled and their voices grew soft with sympathy, and some of them even whispered "But why?". I don't have an answer to that!! I was so bugged, that I told Sandesh that on my next birthday, I would go and get myself some useless expensive gift and tell everybody that he bought it for me, just to shut their big mouths. He just laughed and said, "Tell them that your hubby gave you L-O-L. What's that? Lots of love."

I remember reading a very sweet story in Tinkle, ages ago. It was called "Jose's Christmas gifts". Jose is a boy who lives in a Goan village, with very friendly neighbours. Its Christmas time, and he knows that everybody is going to give him nice gifts. He does not have any money, and his mother doesn't either, so he has no idea what he is going to gift everybody. On his way home from school, he is deep in thought, when he meets a neighbour who is suffering from arthritis, and confides in Jose that he can no longer tend to his beautiful garden. He meets his old neighbour with failing eyesight, who tells him that she is not able to read the newspapers and magazines anymore. He goes home to see his mother hard at work, and very tired. Then he comes up with an idea. He gifts everybody his time. He gifts his mother an hour everyday to help her cut vegetables and clean the house. He gifts his old neighbour twenty hours every month, to read to her. He gifts five hours every week to the arthritic man to tend to the garden. This way, everybody in the village gets a thoughtful gift from Jose, and his gifts are the talk of the town! Now isn't this a beautiful concept? Gifting someone your time?

I remember when I was a kid, and I asked my mother what she wanted on her birthday, she used to tell me, "Be a good girl, keep your room clean, and do things on time. I don't want anything else". I remember being very disappointed. But now I know, that would have been the perfect gift for her. And living up to it would have been very difficult. So if I had done it sincerely, it would have expressed my love effectively for her coz I took so much trouble over it!

Gifts are lovely, yes. A thoughtful, sweet, small gesture of love. I love to receive gifts. But I don't judge people by what they do or don't give me. What is a gift? A way to express our love. There are a hundred million little ways that my loved ones express their love to me, every single day. If I start counting each one as a gift, I would be the richest person ever. If I counted all the material gifts, it would not amount to much. But the only difference is, that when people, for whom it matters, ask me, I can SHOW the material gifts to them. I can say, this is what she gave me. I cannot show them the gestures of love. How unfortunate! But I would prefer the gestures of love any day!

31 comments:

journeylist said...

guess what!!! i remember that story in tinkle, tho it was soo long back. :-)

Queer said...

I totally agree with you.

Ashish Shakya said...

Hey the mention of Tinkle brought back memories of being a kid...Tantri the Mantri,Suppandi,Shikari Shambhu..haha those were good days!

I read your post on coincidences as well.Here's my take on the same topic:

http://phoenix2100.blogspot.com/2005/06/unbreakable-bonds.html

Ashish Gupta said...

actually conceptually you are right, everything you described works only when you know for sure that other person will not feel disappointed and hurt when you don't gift him/her. and that can be difficult even between couples, what to say of millions of other occassions we give gift on. good for you and sandesh, though.

Shruthi said...

@Journeylist: Do You? :) It was such a sweet story... I was so impressed by it.

@queer: Thank you!

@Phoenix: Yes :) Tinkle was so much a part of my childhood!
And your post is very good. Very well-written.

@ashishg: You are right. There are loads of ppl out there for whom gifts mean a lot. And I appreciate that feeling and I do give them gifts too. This works only when both the concerned parties are in agreement.

Raj said...

Shruthi,lovely post.

Also, I know what gift to give you on your next birthday. A collection of O Henry stories and a bunch of Tinkle comics!

Anil The Great said...

shruti :

let me try to put my thoughts here, with the best possible flow. Lets see, why people gift, to make other person feel important and happy. Now, I believe that importance and happiness, can be shown as a gift only on an occasion when it matters the most, say a kid got his first bicycle on his 8th birthday, this gift he wil remeber for his life time, but if u give somebody an expensive vase or a fine jewellery, how long, do you think that person will remeber. So give a gift, which makes a real gift which could be remeber for years altoghther, else , just simply talk to them and share the warmth and love ,you have, with them.I guess that will make up for any of the most expensive gift they can think of. And I say , to hell with people for whom, everything in this world is materialistic.

-ATG

Aparna said...

Hey,
I just happen to come across ur blog.. and I agree absolutely...Itz indeed the feeling behind the gifts that count rather than the gift itself.. and the pressure of giving the gifts on spl. occasions to make them really spl. is a crappy concept to begin with!!

Shruthi said...

@Raj: Ha ha, thanks! :)

@Anil: You are absolutely right. Even if you give a gift, it has to be thoughtful, personalised, and really meaningful. Very true.

@Aparna: Yes, exactly! That's what makes me unhappy - sometimes people give me gifts which I have no use for, and which, I feel sure that they bought for me out of compulsion. I feel very bad at these times...

Tarun said...

I hopped here from Mridula, a very well written post and quite right though logically. But I noticed, there are very few people who think that way. Whoever I came across from my age group seems they feel bad or at least talks for not getting or getting gifts on special occassions. Story you begin with reminds me of hindi film 'Raincoat', if you havn't seen you can give a shot.

Supremus said...

So totally agree with you Shruti.

Though sometimes I think gifts just reassure you of the obvious and other than that, serve no purpose hehe.

Cheers

Suyog

Shruthi said...

@Tarun: Thank you! You are right, most of the people give too much importance to gifts. Yes, i did watch Raincoat, and I remember thinking that it must be based on O Henry's story :)

@Suyog: Very true, Suyog - gifts just remind you of the obvious. As long as it remains that way, it's fine. The moment it becomes the symbol of the feeling, then you are done for :D

mridula said...

Lovely post Shruthi.

Shruthi said...

Hey, thanks Mridula!

greensatya said...

Wonderful and thoughtful post. Sadly today even in India all these ocassions are getting relegated to gifting ocassions.

The most important thing is feelling, gift or no gift.

Anil The Great said...

Shruti :

You have been tagged.

-ATG

Pooja Aggarwal said...

Nice post Shruthi. Came to your blog from Mridula's.

Bhupi said...

Shruthi I must tell you this...I agree that gestures are more important than material gifts...but....these material gifts become ur memories which in future reminds u of gestures which sometimes the small human brain tends to forget.

batein bhool jaati hain, yaadein yaad aati hain

Its all about how u think abt it, i like giving and receiving gifts, but i choose my gifts very specially to make the occasion special and memorable. or in short u can day these material gifts many times help you capture memories.

Deaths Head Roy said...

Nice post.....thank god that there are some gals (or women) out there who think this way......i really have never expected presents and have given none....surprises, yes....notice that somebody wants something and buy it for them, but no presents....

Emma said...

Lovely post, shruthi. And can't agree with you more. I often feel this way too - not only about gifts but a lot of other stuff too which we are expected to do, almost like an obligation. I believe the whole purpose of the act is lost when you are "forced" to do it.

Thankfully for me, like you, my husband and I think alike on such aspects. So, yes, birthdays and anniversaries don't necessarily mean one should be showered with gifts. In fact, there have been occasions when hubby dear had forgotten our anniversary. I never thought it was reflective of how much he loves me. The thought never crossed my mind. Maybe that is another extreme :).

Shruthi said...

@Greensatya: Thanks... and so true!

@ATG: Oops! Will have a look at it soon :)

@Pooja: Hey, thanks :)

Shruthi said...

@Bhupi: You might be right, but if the gestures touch you enough, you will never forget them.
I got lots of gifts when I was in Mumbai... but the one gesture I remember and cherish most of all was when a certain colleague of mine took all trouble to drop me in the airport in the middle of the night coz I could not go by myself as I was down with a a ligament tear. (That colleague is you, if you do not remember)... isn't this greater and memorable than any gift?

Shruthi said...

@Deaths Head Roy: Ha ha, rest assured, there are a lot of us out there :)

@Emma: Thanks! And your comment made me smile :)

Bhupi said...

You may be right. But think this way if i would have given you a small gift at that time then the frequency of remembering that gesture would have increased....right?

See frankly speaking I got a very short memory so in my case i remeber things only when triggered, so personally i take gifting in a little different way. I'm not saying gift has to be big n costly but it should be sweet ans suitable to the ocassion.

Anonymous said...

A great post indeed!! Even I have always felt the same and have been telling my friends of the importance of emotions over materialism...

I get some more points from your post to convince them.

Maya Cassis said...

hey this is such a beautiful write-up.enjoyable reading.according to what i have read of yours...u seem to be a really kind girl

Shruthi said...

@Bhupi: Well, then we need to agree to disagree on this topic :)

@Anon: That's great! Glad I could be of help :))

@Maya: Wow, thanks :) And good that I give that impression ;)

Sudhakar said...

You made my day.. Entire day I kept on reading your blogs and It's been a while since I read something continuously for 3-4 hrs.

I completely agree with you not only in gifts but in other things people do only for formality sake.

Anonymous said...

Shruthi,

This is a nice post. Gifting 'Quality Time' is the perfect gift for the loved ones on special occations. Now-a-days, working couple generally communicates over phone eventhough they are living under the same roof!

Lakshmi

Anonymous said...

I was just going through the old archives of your blog! Nice read!

Enjoyed!

Suresh Sathyanarayana said...

must say ma'am... the only post where i learned that your better' half's name is Sandesh....

about the post ... as usual... exceeded expectations

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