The Art of Giving

By Jamuna Rangachari

June 2006

Instead of expensive geegaws, custom-make your presents with sensitivity and creativity for an unforgettable experience.

Giving Gifts
o Spend time, not money
o Engage with the other
o Express your creativity
o Receive with grace
o View it not as a job but as an opportunity to both experience and share joy
On my 11th birthday, I received a collage with quotes and pictures of Enid Blyton characters from my grandfather. He knew I loved her books and so had taken the trouble to familiarize himself with them and had painstakingly made this for me. The thought, the dedication of time and the extraordinary effort that he had put in conveyed much more than an expensive gift could ever have done. Till date, it remains the most precious gift I have ever received.

Cultural Traditions
At inexpensive restaurants in the south of France, two strangers sharing a small table at lunch, play out a quaint custom. They eat their food separately but treat the carafe of wine set at each plate very differently. One person lifts his or her own carafe and pours the wine into the other's glass. The neighbor then reciprocates. In a sense, nothing has happened. Two identical items have been exchanged and consumed. But this simple act sets in motion cordiality and conversation, establishing a social relationship.

The gift a brother gives his sister on Raksha bandhan, baby showers before a baby is born, presents exchanged during Diwali, Id and Christmas are all cultural norms that seek to bring us closer to one another, by giving us an opportunity to show we care.

Worthy Gifts
In O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi, two impoverished lovers sacrifice their dearest possessions to buy gifts for each other. The man sells his watch to buy a set of combs for his wife's lovely hair, and she cuts off her hair and sells it to buy a strap for her husband's cherished watch. The gifts are now, of course, no use to both of them but the fact that they sacrificed so much for one another speaks volumes of their love.

Another wonderful story is Prem-chand's Idgah where a little boy spends the little money he has been given on Id to buy a 'chimta', a pair of tongs for his grandmother, who often gets her hand burnt while making chappatis for the family.

In Hindu mythology, Sudama, the childhood friend of Krishna, recollecting that Krishna liked a dish of puffed rice, carried it for him. On seeing him seated on the throne, however, he was embarrassed to give this humble gift but Krishna took it forcibly and thoroughly enjoyed it. All these tales illustrate that it is the thought and care behind a gift and not its material value that makes it memorable.

Generosity and Dharma
Practicing the art of thoughtful giving fosters
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