Gift with love
Tired of receiving shoddy and thoughtless gifts, Shiivaani Mahajan discovers how receiving with dignity is as important as gifting with respect and consideration.
Gift. The very mention of the word conjures images of glittering wrapping sheets, satin ribbon bows, and an exciting surprise underneath that attractive packaging. But does reality always match the expectation? Have you ever been disheartened after untying the pack? Or have you always been a fortunate receiver?
There’s much more to gifting and receiving gifts than meets the eye. There is no denying the fact that it is the thought behind the gift that matters, for it reflects the heart, mind, and soul of the giver. I discovered this the hard way through exposure to the dynamics of gifting as a wife, a daughter-in-law, and, most importantly, a mother. A few bitter experiences were enough to nudge me into an introspective journey on the psychology of gifting. I soon realised the wilful ways of the world when people dumped thoughtless gifts on me and my children. There were times when close family and friends gifted us with fake gold bangles, a redundant tea set, a grimy bedsheet, a used sprout maker, trashy outfits, visibly used toys, and even expired edibles. I would be appalled and enraged by their impertinent behaviour.
Gifts that hurt
And what could be worse than the guest or friend bringing a token of love for one child, while callously ignoring the existence of the other! It tormented the mother in me and the dejected look on my child’s face filled me with vindictiveness towards the insensitive visitor. I would rather they not give anything to both my kids than commit this unpardonable act. And I must say it takes some audacity to break an innocent heart, just to save a few nickels.
I had grown up watching my parents gift generously to all our loved ones and acquaintances, sometimes even going beyond their means, without any ulterior motive or expectation from the other end. I still have vivid memories of my father refusing any favours and gifts he was offered as a bank manager in a small town called Kurukshetra, where I spent the formative years of my life. Every Diwali, creditors lined up outside our house with humongous boxes of dry fruits, exotic sweets, or expensive gadgets, but he warded them off with an annoyingly stern look on his face. My dad, a man of deep-rooted ethics, never compromised on his morals and principles for money, fame, or any other worldly pleasures of life. Thus, we learnt that life was all about giving, and giving to the best of your abilities with grace, love, and generosity. Little did I know that it was not a universal value.
But what we failed to learn was that receiving was an equally important aspect, that one should not accept or receive ill treatment in any form, and that it is not a sin to say ‘No’ to protect your self-respect and honour. And so, for years, I mutely and reluctantly kept accepting inferior, inconsiderate gifts that left me nonplussed. I would wonder: “What did I do to deserve this? Am I not valuable to them? Is it my financial status that decides the quality of my gift?” I oscillated between rage, self-pity, resentment, and eventually to forgiving the giver but never found a resolution or expressed my discontent, thanks to my timorous personality. Not that all my experiences left me dejected or heartbroken or that I was never showered with worthy gifts, but the agony was difficult to process when it involved close friends and family. It felt like deception and sheer humiliation.
During a self-empowerment workshop, when I shared about this recurrent pattern in my life, the workshop leader asked me if I had self-esteem issues or if I always put myself on a lower pedestal than others. After initially resisting the idea, realisation dawned on me and I saw the truth of her perspective. Yes, I had always considered myself undeserving. While I would often sing praises of others’ talents and achievements, I would shove mine under the carpet. I connected the dots and inferred that everything happening to me was a clear reflection of my inner world, a world that comprised of meekness, sacrifice, poor self-image, and the need to please people.
Standing up for my dignity
Eventually, I came upon a two-fold plan to resolve this perennial occurrence in my life. One, I chose to stop radiating my unworthiness to the outer world and worked upon building my self-respect and esteem. Two, I decided to learn to say ‘NO’ to low-bred behaviour and refused to accept lousy gifts from people who foisted their unwanted stuff on me. I would not say that I have overcome my self-deprecation completely, but progress is definitely evident, and this inner shift had opened a flow of newfound abundance in my life.
Being a quintessential people’s person, I spend a lot of my time, energy, thought, money, and heart in choosing the right gift for every special person in my life. The task gets even more tedious when I have a shoestring budget, yet I will not settle for anything petty or shoddy for others. And rightly so. Gifting, for me, is about bringing joy in someone’s life, even if momentarily. It is about creating and cherishing memories. It is an extension of the elemental emotions like love and joy. Priceless, yet pivotal for existence. And when a gift lacks this pure vibration or is given for the sake of giving, it can be clearly felt by the receiver, leading to anguish and resentment in their heart.
Rules of gifting
So, in order to protect myself from any such affliction, I have come up with my own set of rules on gifting, which could prove to be a foolproof method of choosing just the right stuff for others.
• I shall not buy for another, something that I consider below par for my own use.
• I shall not spend my time, energy, and money on people who persistently display an ungracious gifting attitude. I would rather give to the needy and the deprived, instead of kowtowing to affluent, penny-pinching friends and relatives.
• I shall politely, yet firmly, fend off distasteful gifts that will clutter my physical, emotional, and mental space.
• I shall choose gifts that the other person might never ever buy for themself for monetary reasons.
• If unclear about a person’s taste or choice, I shall present them with cash vouchers to avoid any disappointment later.
E V Lucas, in his essay The Unbirthday Present, came up with a golden rule of present-giving that will never fail. He said, “You must never give to another that which you would not rather keep for yourself, nothing that does not cost you a pang to part from.” And I second his philosophy wholeheartedly. Never ever pawn off gifts received from someone that you don’t want. If you did not like it, there is a chance that your recipient won’t like it either. Avoid buying crummy items on sale and dumping them
on others for the sake of it. You will surely gain a few dimes but lose the relationship due to your shortsightedness. In a nutshell, do not treat others as junkyards to get rid of something you dislike.
Gift with love
To support you in this endeavour, here are a few foolproof gifting ideas you can draw upon. A handloom or a silk saree or a stole, organic skincare products, a classy pair of earrings, and a lifestyle and apparel gift voucher are a few of the many things that can unfailingly light up a woman’s face. And men will usually be pleased to receive perfumes, leather wallets, car accessories, or casual clothing. As a mother of two, I have seen my kids shriek with excitement on finding trendy gadgets, delectable chocolates, bags, and cool accessories inside the gift packs. Then there are some practical, useful gifts like aromatherapy sets, salt lamps, family portraits, plants and pots, bedsheets, music records, and crockery sets. These will never go out of fashion and have high durability too.
It is really not so much about the cost of the gift but the thoughtfulness behind it. A pack of succulent fruits, a box of scrumptious sweets, a heartfelt letter, a collage of pictures, a movie ticket, or a handmade piece of art wouldn’t be heavy on your pocket, but still have the power to enthral the receiver. Whether you are giving the gift of tradition, time, adventure, or experience, it is the connection between the receiver and the giver that is the real magic of being human.
Gifts are animate. They talk. And nothing can outdo the language of love. This Christmas, spread only love.
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