A guide for the ungrateful

How many of those gifts do you actually want ?

by Sheela Jaywant

A guide for the ungrateful

The silly season’s nearly over, ailment and you’re stuck with a five cakes still wrapped in transparent plastic, four sets of table-napkins, recipe three packets of fancy candles, two boxes of chocolates and a bottle of cheap wine (you could use that for trying out an au vin recipe). Not including the curios which, if you display them, are going to add to your dusting woes. You’re lucky no one’s gifted you a puppy or turtle. Or shiny marbles one more time. Or your umpteenth pair of brightly coloured socks (unless you’re a collector). Or plants/flowers your mother-in-law is allergic to.

If you think buying presents is a tough job, using gifts someone else had chosen is tougher. Those with bursting wardrobes and overflowing book-shelves (and no time to read those tomes) know how irritating it can be to add yet another item to the collection. So much easier to handle a piece of precious jewellery, but not everyone takes the hint if you tell them that.

So, after you’ve carefully unwrapped, un-creased, folded and kept away the wrapping paper – you do re-use that, don’t you – sort out the gifts into will use, may use and won’t use ever. Put a little chit inside the gift with the name of the person who gave it to you. That way you won’t by mistake give it back to the same person. And make sure there’s nothing written inside the box. (Once, when a friend opened a carton of fine china coffee mugs, she found a note that read ‘from ‘X’ to ‘Y’’ indicating that they weren’t originally meant for her). If you don’t want the next person to pass it on further, paste a chit with your name and good wishes prominently on the inside of the box, or write the same with a bright felt-tipped pen. Break the chain thus.

Books can be passed on quite easily if one’s name isn’t written anywhere (inspect carefully, people like me write stuff in one of the inner pages for an ‘ouch’ moment: if I’ve gifted a book, I don’t like it to be passed on). Ever since we began to download music and movies, it’s hard to give away CDs and tapes (remember those?) if one does receive any.

If your relatives and friends insist on giving you pillow cases with ‘sweet-dreams’ embroidered on them, or thin steel trays that make a patak sound when handled or perfumes that are strong and horrid enough to be sprayed in bus-stand loos, please just give them away, perhaps to someone very poor, or at least very poor taste. Some people give very practical gifts: diapers and some unmentionable female hygiene products, soaps, shampoos, ear-buds, refills for ball-point pens. I don’t mind those kinds, I’m actually quite comfortable in this category till the level of bath-towels, for they are consumables.

What if you live in a tiny flat and you receive a huge crystal glass bowl? No place to keep it, too expensive to gift away easily, emotions involved? I suggest stash it away until you buy yourself a bigger place. If you must reuse it, make sure you remember to give it to a favourite relative/friend who will value it, so that every time you see it, you know it’s ‘yours’ and feel some joy. Not of owning, but that the thing is being cared for. Like one might feel for a loved pet. There are people who feel the same affection for their (dear, departed) expensive gifts.

There are people who keep every gift they receive: unmatched sets of coffee mugs, painted shells, manicure sets, etc. Every painting and ceramic plate they get is displayed. In the old days, wall-clocks took a lot of wall-space in these hoarders’ homes. They delight in telling you that the (truly awful) blouse(s) they are wearing was/were gifted by xyz neighbour/schoolmate/acquaintance. This article isn’t for them. (The slashes to include both singular and plural are for grammar Nazis, my apologies to lesser mortals.)

The New Year has been ushered in. In homes across Goa, unwanted gifts will find their way to the loft, to be aired, dusted, repacked and gifted when the time comes to people on birthdays, anniversaries, friendship days, and more.

The smart ones, who want to make sure their gifts are valued know that, when in doubt, it’s best to go traditional. Home-made foods are rarely re-gifted. Specially if the giver smartly insists on opening the jar/dabba in the presence of everybody and offers the snack/dish/drink around. There’s something about well-made hand-crafted things and living (potted or otherwise) plants that makes it difficult for recipients to resist keeping them.

And before you decide what to keep, discard or pass on, bear in mind: the mantra of the three ‘R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Until the next celebration, happy gifting!

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