Notes on gifts and gifting

Yesterday one of the posts from the column – guestspeak popped up on facebook timeline and P enquired if I have decided to abondon the blog. I replied I have been lazy. As I was strolling into the kitchen I spotted two momo steamers. It is no secret that I am a momo and dumpling fanatic and of late I have lost my craving for momos thanks to mayonaisation. Over the past few years momos have emerged as a street food across Delhi and there is a make shift momo stall near many a metro stations and bus stops across the capital. Nutri nuggets has infiltrated the chicken momos, we even have tandoori momos and we have started dipping momos in mayonnaise. If you think is it going to be another nostalgic trip? Yes, you are right. As I wrapped and stacked away one of the momo steamers I remembered that ten to eleven years ago I was so enamoured by momos that I gifted one of my dearest friends a momo steamer for her wedding, without removing the price sticker. To my defense, I had never bought wedding gifts and since I thought we loved momos so the most logical thing was to gift her a steamer for her new kitchen. Many years later when I recounted this incident to one of my friends he said that it speaks of a special bond.
True. A decade has passed by and today as my old fridge stopped working I received a whatsapp image of the beautiful kitchen garden she has been working on for months. She told me of the saplings that she is nurturing in egg shells to gift me. I told her that I will keep aside a planter to plant the saplings as soon as he gifts me. Over the years, I have come across people who are passionate about food and take a keen interest in my work on food. Two of the most exciting gifts I have received are two art works. One is titled Dey’s special Dilli Dekho Trips and the other a Delhi food map which has a very pointed instruction – Map to point, not to scale  I would be ashamed to list down the books which I have acquired through coercion, coaxing and reciprocity. Next comes cutlery sets and kitchen utensils which friends have gifted me over the years. Finally, spice box sets and tea collections. I might be missing out few things related to food and kitchen that have not made its way into the list. Over the years I have started gifting friends interesting, quirky items and however my penchant for utilitarian items has not fizzled. Latest entry into that long list of gifts exchange is a pressure cooker bought for a friend to celebrate her 30th birthday.
Gifts come with a pressure of parting and it would be worthwhile reflecting on gifts we have found it difficult to part with. I will keep aside such confessions and turn your attention to my mother and her sister’s gift exchanges of tiffin box and a dear friend’s possession of gifts bought for her friends. My mother and her sister shared a common fondness and anxiety of possessing tiffin boxes. My mom and aunt had an eye for tiffin box of all makes and sizes to keep left over foods. They fondly gifted each other tiffin boxes and as years went by their collection increased. During one such gift exchanges my mother gifted her a tiffin box to realise that she had exactly gifted her the same tiffin box three years ago. On other hand, my aunt gifted a tiffin box to my mother. She started using it and it so happened that she ended up returning one of the same tiffin box thinking that my aunt had sent homemade goodies. I have never seen my mother buy a tiffin box ever since my aunt passed away. She has decreased her visit to the utensil market but her incessant complaints about lack of tiffin boxes has not ceased but to this date she regrets for mistaking a gift.
On the other hand, a friend of mine has a particular tendency of not being able to part with gifts she buys for others. She bought a beautiful book, wrote a sweet note for me and kept it in her bookshelf. When she realized that she was not able to part with it she decided to gift me another one. She thought its best to buy and gift a thing immediately before she develops any attachment. As I had some engagement she hung around in my neighbourhood for hours and landed up in my place mid-night so that it won’t find its way into her kitchen.
Hence it’s best to say that there are several emotions attached to gifts and gifting. Each culture has its own rules associated with gifts. As we step into the festive season and work on our checklists to buy gifts it would be worthwhile to step aside and think of moments of joy, reluctance and anger we have experienced in gift-exchange.


2 responses

  1. Your blog post brought back quite a few memories! I still remember the first bottle of Kasundi you gifted me and changed my life forever! Now, of course, it is a staple condiment in my kitchen. As an extremely lazy and reluctant cook (albeit an enthusiastic and committed eater!), it was Kasundi which made me sit up and experiment with cooking (both with and without kasundi now). My mother still rolls her eyes when I tell her I made fish followed by her usual – ‘Can you even boil rice?’

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