The thought that counts?

Published: 15 December, 2012 07:31 IST | Rohan Joshi |

Gift-giving season. If it's the thought that counts, we're clearly braindead.

I love December. It’s only 34 degrees instead of the regular 36, and it’s that time of year when a fat old man in a red suit showers you with gifts, and you look at him and say “Khaana zaroor khaaiyega,” and then introduce him to your bride. This is the season of giving and gifting, an art-form that Indians take great pleasure in. The problem is, our gifting is like Bollywood. We love it, but for the most part, it’s tacky and unoriginal. All too often, you open a gift-box expecting Lagaan but finding Jacckkyee Bhagnunny. There are some gifts that need to go away forever. In no particular order, they are:

Flowers. Flowers need to stand for something. A red flower on Valentines Day stand for love. A white flower at a cemetery stands for remembrance. And Andy Flower at a cricket ground stands for India’s worst cricket series since life. Flowers need to mean something specific, something definite. But in India, we shove bouquets of the damn things into people’s hands for no reason, at every single event. The worst is at weddings, when after three hours of intense guest-greeting, the area around the bride and groom looks like James Cameron could film a N’avi mating ritual in it.

Forget-me-not: In India, we shove bouquets of flowers into people’s hands at every event

And then there’s the Dry Fruit Box. Kaju, badaam, pista. Because nothing says I love you like the colonoscopy that follows your gluttony. Also, I’m not a squirrel. (However, anyone who wants to send me a crate full of masala kaaju only is more than welcome to do so)

The vase. Nobody needs that many vases. Except the couple at the wedding that gets that many flowers. Also, the vase has the dubious distinction of being the only gift whose name sounds wrong no matter how you say it.

The ‘showpiece’ (pron: sho-pis). Also known as the memento, or the ‘token of our appreciation’. The one Indian gift that has never ever made sense. For an item to qualify as a shopis, it must pass the following two tests:

1) It must be completely useless. Its existence must serve no purpose, and it must have no discernable function.
2) It must be the weirdest-looking thing you have ever seen.

I can hear some of you asking, “So Ajit Agarkar is a showpiece?” Perhaps, but a showpiece is a random geometric shape (or a parrot) most likely to be made of marble or that odd multi-coloured glass and plastic mix we loftily call “krryshtal”. If Medusa ever turned Bappi Lahiri to stone, he would be a showpiece.

Blessings. To couples who say “No gifts, blessings only” I can only assume that you are either extremely wealthy, or know too many people who only give out showpieces. You’re getting married. And you’re Indian, so you’ve probably spent the GDP of a small country like Zambia or Nandan Nilekani in putting the wedding together. It’s okay to want something more than “I pray you have a son who comes first in class and never buys anyone a vase” as a gift. There are a thousand people at your wedding. After you’ve been blessed by the first twelve, chances are you’ve got the important areas like health, children and happiness covered. The other 988 had better cough up. Besides, if you’re going to bless me with the hope of riches, put your money where your mouth is and like, contribute to the process, bro.

Perhaps it’s time India warmed to the idea of registration, whereby you can register with a popular superstore for all the things you want and need for a happily married life, and your guests can contribute towards that. That way, you get what you want, and Nandan Nilekani has something to do now that we’ve agreed that UID is rubbish. Unless you want to put him in charge of a project to figure out the correct pronunciation of “vase”. It’s killing me. 

Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on

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