It's the thought that matters

Last Updated : 19 October 2012, 13:03 IST
Last Updated : 19 October 2012, 13:03 IST

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When you give a gift, use your head more than your credit card. Reethika Azariah Kuruvilla shows you how

It’s that warm and fuzzy-feeling time of the year again with the holiday season around the corner, when your mother starts calling you around the clock to find out when you’re getting home and almost everybody on the planet has plans traveling outstation for the week ahead.  This is all very well, provided you manage to get tickets at the last minute, but there’s always that tiny little dark cloud of impending doom hanging over your head when you start hoping you’ve managed to salvage enough of your pay check to deal with the gifts you need to start giving out. 

It’s too late to think of good deals on quick delivery from any online store and, from personal experience, printouts of online receipts don’t count either.  However, fret not.  As with everything else in the world, this season too shall pass, and you’ll still be on top of things.  The thought of quick and easy gifts takes me back to a holiday decades ago when my aunt, Saroj Nanjappa, had us all making photo-frames with cardboard, a bit of sponge and some old fabric.  As I recall, it was a Christmas every single cousin and friend was gifted a photo-frame whether they liked it or not.  There was also the season of handmade notepads with little dolls and another one of mirrors with seashells and accessories stuck around their borders, but that is another story.

This is now the time to start using your head and not your credit card.  Gift giving has a whole new range this season with handmade, eco-friendly options that barely make a dent in your credit history and help clear up a whole range of unwanted stuff in your home instead.  Here’s a list of quick options that you could use to keep your Id or Diwali as festive as every other holiday with barely a glance at your bank balance at the end of the month.

- Greeting cards.  Getting your toddlers to make greeting cards goes a long way with grandparents and aunts and uncles or even older cousins.  It would help though if they spent a little time making these cards; preferably on coloured chart paper with lots of detailed drawing, as opposed to random single squiggles with ballpoint pens that only they could describe as reptiles of some sort.  

- IOU coupons.  By far the most popular of all home-made gifts, an “I owe you” coupon could entitle the bearer anything from a free night of babysitting to a car wash or a cooked meal.  Of course, it would be sensible to make sure you offer services you are capable of rendering — for instance, do not offer home-cooked meals if your prowess in the kitchen is limited to boiled water.  It might make sense to put an expiry date on your coupon, unless you want it used multiple times over the ensuing years so that you end up washing somebody else’s car more often than your own.

- Cushion covers and throws.  Use old fabric or saris to quickly whizz up funky-looking cushion covers or throws with zari borders, if you can, or get them done by the local darzi in something under two minutes; which is probably less than the time it took for you to find that old material in the first place.

- Paint and pattern.  Paint cloth napkins or personalise unused white handkerchiefs with a little paint and some quirky patterns for interesting gift options.  This works only with clean new material so don’t bother trying it with faded old material unless you are seriously trying to offend the person you are gifting this to.

- Donate.  For years on our birthdays, we always received a card from an organisation my grandmother used to donate to.  What better time than now to pay it forward.  Make a contribution to a charitable organisation in your recipients’ name so that he/she receives a greeting card detailing their gift.

- Greenery.  Do the environment a favour and gift your loved one a potted plant this season.  You could very well use an unused ceramic jar and personalize it with new shoots from your indoor plants.  Alternatively, empty miniature green wine bottles, when tied together make for an interesting wall-hanging with money plants in water.  Not only do they look good, but require little to no extra care, and supposedly bring with them the awesome Feng Shui aura of prosperity with money and luck.

- Burn your own music, not literally of course.  A good friend once gifted us a compact disc with songs that she thought reminded her of us.  Of course every single song on that CD reminded us of her too!  Although it’s the thought that counts, you might want to filter your songs out before you make CDs for specific members of your family.  Your granddad is most certainly not going to want to spend his time in traffic head-banging to beats he can’t relate to. Consider using newspaper for gift wrapping purposes or any kind of paper that you were contemplating recycling.  Re-using toddler finger-painting paper or your teenagers’ math homework from last year makes for an even more personal packaging option.  Gifts are going to be greener this side this season.  What makes the difference with these eco-friendly gifting options is not only that you are reusing and recycling things you own, but you are also reducing your expenses as well as other people’s junk with gifts they may not potentially use.  Much like a recent wedding where the bride personally made little bottles of homemade jam for every guest, the chances of your homemade gift meaning so much more, being used and kept as keepsakes, are much higher than a store-bought random retail product.  

Then again, if worse comes to worst, and there are actually people at home who, after all this homemade gift giving, you have actually managed not to account for, you could always fall back on the safest thing on the planet.  Something you’re good at, a universally understood language, and something that could get the whole family up on their feet.  

Something Indian family get-togethers are known for — antakshari and music, and most importantly, dance.  Dance like there’s nobody watching and like there’s no tomorrow — ‘Gangnam’ style!  Happy homemade holidays everyone!

Published 19 October 2012, 13:03 IST

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