Monday, September 14, 2009

Give Me What I Want, What I Really, Really Want

When I was younger, marriage wasn’t a particularly appealing prospect. I mean how boring to be stuck with one man all your life when variety is a well-known spice. However even in the deep cynicism that sometimes afflicts the young, I have to say that one thing about marriage was wonderful even back then. Gifts. Aaaaaahhh. The idea of standing on a stage receiving hundreds, indeed thousands, (hey, I’m Indian) of gifts on your wedding day was mesmerizing. For that one thing alone it was all worth it, I thought. But then I really did get married and what a great shock it has been to the system. Things are not what they seem and everything has turned upside down. The idea of one man is now very appealing but the gifts – oh dear, oh dear – what a great big disappointment!

So here I propose a radical overhaul in the way we give gifts at weddings in India.

I’m writing about this many months after my wedding because I had to go out to buy a gift today for a little new born. Allow me to digress completely here. The mother and child will be leaving town soon to return home so I took great care to avoid bulk. After a quick browse, for I hate dallying in malls, I settled upon a little blue pillow and a little blue baby suit. If you’re good at packing a bag, you know that both these items can be compressed to the size of an adult fist - easy to pack, unbreakable and utterly useful. No mother looks at a little blue pillow and tosses it into the rubbish heap. And if it has a stuffed teddy on it, no way! Pleased with my purchase I have now packed the gift into a little, believe it or not, blue bag which is ready to be personally delivered tonight.

At the risk of beating my own drum I want to say that I took great care to buy the gift. I had a modest budget but I put an effort into creating something of value for the user. And here I want to show you how this is all connected to wedding gifts.

Is it just me or have any of you had the experience of getting odd cups and saucers palmed off to you on your wedding day? Our parents had pleaded with the invitees not to bring “boxed gifts”. Basically we were subtly trying to tell everyone that we would be leaving the country so just bring cash. Or bring gold bars if you really must. Or just bring yourself for Christ’s sake. But please don’t bring in the crockery you don’t use.

Most people didn’t listen.

We ended up with lots of unwanted coffee mugs, tea cups, a kettle, random cut glass dishes and a hideous photo frame. It’s all sitting in cupboards at our parents’ house, occupying space and will probably not be of use to us in this millennium or the next. Why, oh why can’t people be more thoughtful about what they give? Don’t get the wrong impression, I really don’t mind recycled gifts. My grandmother is constantly giving me things she doesn’t want but only because she knows I’ll love them. She never gives me a jute sack or a gold tray, or a Swarovski pig. That she knows will go out the window. So why can’t more Indian wedding guests put some effort into gift-giving?

Because they don't, here is my proposal. If the gift registry concept won’t work in India because people won’t use their credit cards online, then the bride and groom may have a collection of gifts of every price range ready at the door. Just pay up front, put your name down against it, wish the bride and groom, eat and leave. All’s well that ends well and the couple can live happily ever after without the clutter of bad china.

Doable you think?


Revanta said...

There's got to be a degree of anonymity to it all though. The whole point of "I'll pack it up in a pretty box, wish them, eat and leave." - is that nobody else knows anything about the gift. (There are also the select few, that don't even bother to leave a name or a card). The story I love to tell is of the pharmacist that gifted a "stethoscope" in a neatly gift-wrapped box.

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Do you mean there has to be anonymity in the method I prescribe? Or the useless one we have right now? Stethoscope??! Really??? Christ what next?

Tony said...

Nice concept. A friend of mine was leaving the country and made it a point to mention she wouldn't mind a farewell gift in cash. No offence taken. Now she's out there, somewhere in Vancouver, having bought something really useful with that cash. Better than forgotten crockery in mom's cupboard, don't you think?

Alaphia Zoyab said...

I'm sure your friend is in Happily-ever-after-ville. Way better than crockery.

Anonymous said...

Very inde-resting! I will surely keep these insights in mind given that I generally get very blank when I have to buy gifts!

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Srinivas - Crockery is out. Cash is in.