The stress of festival gifting

You can never get it right. Not the list, not the gift. So the first step towards nirvana from stress of festival gifting is to accept this fact. Navratri, Dussehra or Diwali, it is a time for feasting and fasting and gifting, whichever part of the country you live in.

Advertising for gifts reaches a crescendo in these two weeks. Almost 70% of annual ad budgets are spent during the one month of this festive season. Sales of luxury goods also peak during this period. It is considered auspicious to buy homes, gold and diamond ornaments, silver goods, electronics and any major item of purchase that you have been saving up for. It is also a time to stress over these and what you have to gift people because it is expected of you!

Advertising for gifts reaches a crescendo during festivals. Even if you refuse to be part of the crass commercialisation of the entire gifting mania that grips the nation during this month, it’s impossible to stay immune. Represenatation pic/Thinkstock
Advertising for gifts reaches a crescendo during festivals. Even if you refuse to be part of the crass commercialisation of the entire gifting mania that grips the nation during this month, it’s impossible to stay immune. Represenatation pic/Thinkstock

You cannot go cold turkey over festival gifting, however much you try. Even if you refuse to be part of the crass commercialisation of the entire gifting mania that grips the nation during this month, it’s impossible to stay immune. Somebody or the other will gift you stuff. It could even be some gilded non-biodegradable box with a silk pouch inside it with 100 grams of silvered elaichi (cardamom).

Or then there are the big, really big gifts that some believe would win hearts and minds. Bed sheet sets, electrical gadgets in massive boxes, booze and ready-to-eat meal packs, cookies, candy and fruit from foreign shores. These pricy gifts are favourites when gifting to sundry in-laws. And the pricier, the better, when it comes to pleasing in-laws. But bigger is not necessarily better. And some just can’t be pleased, so no point, really, in begging and borrowing to buy enormous gifts for your daughter’s in-laws or sister’s in-laws. The stress before, during and after is really not worth the effort. But not giving anything could be seen as a slight. Return to stress mode.

And there is really no point in sending or landing up at the doorstep of politicians with gifts. They neither open gifts nor do they know or appreciate what you gift them. It is passed along to their staff or recycled.
Same goes for affluent bosses and business honchos. Spending precious time and effort in comparing prices of watches or cut-glass vases or tea sets or wine glasses in the hope that they would be appreciated is pure delusion. They are recycled, either next Diwali or the next day.

I know of a friend who rebelled against the commercialisation of festival gifts and slogged for a week to bake dozens of cakes, distributing them personally. She got little appreciation for the thoughtful deed and painstaking effort. Next Diwali she reverted to shiny boxes of factory-produced mithai.

Another dreadful trend is of gift boxes with plastic Ganeshas and Laxmis on them. I am at sea about what to do with them on Boxing Day, ie, the day after Diwali when you dispose of boxes. Can’t throw them into the bin and how many can you just shove into corners of a cupboard? Since when did pictures of gods and goddesses become gift-wrap paper or post-its?

Then there are the donation aunties and do-gooder uncles who prey on the festive season charitable mode to make you sign off sums for ‘their’ favourite charities. And after you have splurged on painting your house or denting-painting your car or upgrading your refrigerator, your conscience will certainly knock on your mind’s door. So there goes another couple of hundred or thousand rupees. Maybe, that is money well spent.

What should one gift, if one must? Best is probably is to get more bang for one’s buck. Spend small sums on many people. Opt for online purchases if that’s your thing. Who can battle traffic, fight for parking and then hop from shop to shop, comparing prices when online purchasing can be done at the click of a key. But you may not get what you actually see on your screen. And shopaholics say it doesn’t really give them the satisfaction that comes from hotfooting to shops that have fabulous Diwali sales.

Traditional gifts have been replaced. Rarely do people gift things like home-made mithais, dry fruits, silk fabric, silver coins, brass and copper utensils, idols of gods and goddesses. Objects of daily use are gifted and recycled as gifts to a point where they cannot be recycled anymore.

There is joy in giving, they say. But who knows who ‘they’ are, and ‘they’ probably never bought anything that ‘they’ gave away. Must have been gift recyclers!

Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on Twitter @smitaprakash

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