WHEN DIWALI GIVES LIFE LESSONS
I think the concept of exchanging gifts during Diwali has a crazy theory behind it
No one loves this season more than I do. There’s festive spirit in the air, and of course, viruses of different kinds. Both bind the nation like nothing else does. Happily sneezing away to glory, we all put up status messages claiming to love the festivities all around. And when we bump into strangers at parties, there’s no risk of running out of conversation starters — “Terrible traffic, no?”, “This change of weather is awful”, “Have you noticed the smog?” and so on. And then the one question that everyone is seen asking everyone else — “Aapki Diwali gifting ho gayi?”
For businessmen, the answer to this one question is more important than their annual balance sheet; for homemakers, this question could initiate non-stop verbal diarrhoea about the obligation of giving gifts to all rishtedaars; and for young boys and girls, it brings nerve- wracking visions of accompanying their parents to homes of near strangers, overloaded with gift boxes. And then being mock-scolded by mom who says, “Beta, yeh Dolly aunty hain. Namaste karo aur theek se milo” — whatever that “theek se milo” means.
Strangely enough, when asked if they are done with gifting everyone in their universe, most people respond by saying they haven’t even begun yet. Even if it is 12 hours to go before Diwali. And these are the same people who were caught asking the building security guard to load gift boxes in their cars at seven in the morning the previous day, so that they can beat the maddening evening traffic.
Anyway, I totally love the concept of Diwali gifting. And when I tell you my crazy theory behind loving it, you may do so, too. I think this whole jingbang of exchanging gifts during the festival gives us some very important lessons in life. Lessons that we may know of, already, but don’t realise. Here’s what I mean...
What goes around, comes around: We’ve all heard this idiom in the serious context of the theory of Karma. But have you noticed how Diwali gifts teach us this lesson? So Bubbly aunty comes home carrying a gift packet, along with the nownecessary accompaniment of a chocolate or a sweet box. You open it after she leaves and make a face. Yet another set of cups and saucers. This must be the 17th this season. And oh, the handle of one of the cups even has a crack. Hmm... humein chala diya? You ask your maid to bring a fresh wrapping paper, and carefully wrap the box again. You have to leave for Pooja aunty’s home now. Last year, she also gave nothing great. Toh yeh unko chal jayega. After giving you sufficient gaalis once you are gone, Pooja aunty repacks the gift and gives it to her neighbour. After all, this is the only occasion when we get to meet and smile at people on whom we’ve called the police seven times through the year over car parking. The neighbour turns out to be a building contractor who wants to genuinely wish health, happiness and prosperity to the MCD inspector in his area. The cups and saucers are on the way again. Oh, but look at how small the world is. The MCD inspector is none other than Pappu chacha — your dad’s second cousin’s first cousin. He sends his sincere wishes every year, through the driver, with his official visiting card neatly taped on the box.
The wishes arrive this year, too, and voilà, the cup with the crack is staring back at you. “The b*$%&* has not even bothered to use a new wrapping paper. Just changed the cello tape on it,” you mutter under your breath. “Don’t worry,” says your wife, opening the bed box to store it. “We’ll give it to Bubbly aunty only, next year.” What goes around, comes around.
Size matters: Ahem... and so does packaging. In Diwali, too, just as in most other things in life. Just the other day, I got a gift packet the size of a centre table. It was beautifully packaged with unidentifiable species of wild flowers painted in gold and silver stuck on the shining wrapping paper. Wow... it’s so big, collectively squealed my daughter and the maid, visibly impressed. Extremely suspicious of how an excolleague, who would cause anxious moments even before paying his two hundred bucks in contributory office parties, had become so generous, I started opening it. Please note that I’ve deliberately used the continuous tense instead of simply saying ‘opened it’... because opening it was quite a task in itself. There were layers on it — several.
Discarding the wrapping sheets, and the newspaper sheets, and the cardboard, and another set of newspaper sheets (this time the one I work for!), and then enough dried straw to feed 250 cows in Bihar, we reached the gift — a rather nice wooden wall clock, of the usual size. Still not sure why it was packed like a fragile Taj Mahal, I was pretty amused when I turned it around to see a Dinesh Verma’s card addressed to my colleague, sticking out of the battery compartment. It seemed like Mr Verma’s last ditch effort to ensure no one recycled his gift without it being exposed that it originated from him.
Anyway, the sheer size and packaging of the gift has won hearts in my household, and my daughter has neatly saved all the gold and silver coloured beads and bushes for her school project. Point taken — size matters.
Expectations cause stress: While growing up, I had a neighbour who was at an influential post in the income tax department. Every year around Diwali, it was a common sight to see a rush of people ringing his doorbell, carrying gifts of all shapes and sizes. As kids, we would envy them like hell, what with us having to mostly do with Bubbly aunty’s cups and saucers from Sadar Bazaar for excitement. His wife once confided in a neighbour that her husband had a list of ‘expected gift givers’ ready before every Diwali, and would get stressed if any of the expected people didn’t turn up to wish him. And then one day, he retired from service. Need I say more?
Sonal Kalra wants to start a part-time business of ‘gift packaging and recycling consultancy’. Aapki Diwali gifting ho gayi? Mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch on Facebook at facebook.com/ sonalkalra13. Follow on Twitter at @sonalkalra