Article Published in THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

A gift for all seasons

Navtej Sarna

PERHAPS when the computer society is sufficiently developed in matters of everyday import, gift buying will not shorten lives. You will not see harried people moving from one shop to another, tearing their hair and cursing all birthdays and weddings in general. All that one will then have to do would feed all necessary details like age, sex, educational qualifications, marital status, hobbies into a computer and let it do the dirty work and then sit back while the gift, wrapped and packaged virtually fell into your lap. But till then, we’ll have to live with it.

Things were not always so bad, There was a time when buying a gift was easier than accepting one (and that’s saying a lot). For when, for example, Pinky’s birthday came, all that you had to do was buy a box of toffees or if she was the finicky type, then a tin of non-fattening biscuits. Everybody else brought almost the same thing to the balloon-decked party and there was much rejoicing in the togetherness of the affair.

After the cake and passing the parcel, Pinky (God bless her) untied each gay ribbon with genuine anticipation and expressed genuine joy when she saw the same cat or dog smiling out at her from the tin box. The good old days, if ever there were any.

The next few years were only slightly more taxing. The gift just had to be an Enid Blyton. If it wasn’t new the birthday boy would hardly mind. In fact he wouldn’t even mind if it had been originally pinched from him (which it usually was) The potential excitement oozing out from between the-dog-eared covers was all powerful. Enid Blyton carried the day- or at least every birthday.

Advance a few pimply, adolescent years and there’s definite trouble. Puberty and sun signs combine to make gift-buying a considerable sweat. You have to decide whether sentimental poetry and pink handkerchiefs or leather gloves and dark glasses will fit the bill. Some people make it easier by throwing various ill-disguised hints a month or so before the great day. These usually are on the lines of “Oh, what wouldn’t I give for a real good tennis raquet.” Or “That blue and white dress in the left corner of the third shop is just divine.” More often than not, you fall for them.

But it’s now that the situation really becomes tricky, calling for much insight and discretion. The is the time when friends all around are falling like helpless ninepins in the matrimonial field. Consolation gifts have to be chosen carefully. What makes the assignment difficult is the presence of an unknown factor. Your friend’s choice, which you have mastered over the years no longer matters. It has to be what his wife will like. And thereby hangs a tale. The lady’s taste though no doubt immaculate is, however, a closed book to you. Then follows the nerve-shattering, sleepless period when you are trying to make the correct shot in the dark. It is at such troubled moments that one wishes for the computer prescribing gifts for all seasons.