When adults play pass the parcel

Last Updated 18 July 2014, 15:48 IST

Blame it on inflation, lack of time, space or sheer de-cluttering strategy, the tribe of ‘regifters’ is growing. But is it the right thing to do? ponders Deepa Ballal

Ishita Sachdev still nurses a silent grudge. “I would have been happier had my gift been returned. But passing it on to someone - I never intended to be its recipient – is, in a way, heartbreaking,” she says.

Many souls like Ishita find their mercurial temper reach unfathomable heights when they see carefully chosen, sanely priced, thoughtfully wrapped and affectionately given gifts passed on to someone, just because it was of no “use” to the recipient or it was sitting idle in that corner of the house or some other lame excuse.

“Last year, I gifted my mother-in-law a dinner set, only to find the same in my sister-in-law’s house a few weeks later,” complains Diya Shan. “When I politely asked her, she said she already had one set and it was gathering dust. At least now, the gift is in use.”

Being the smart lass that she is, Diya now gifts with the tag – “you like it, keep it; if not, let it come back to me.” In her opinion, given that everyone today is connected more via apps than filial bonds, clarity in communication goes a long way in mending ties.

Accepting a gift and faking likeness is what we are adept at, lest the person feels bad. We live in difficult times. Accepting a gift can invite trouble and not accepting it would mean closing all doors, windows right on the face of the person. “I prefer when people are frank. Like or dislike the gift, both are welcome, but not repacked and regifted,” maintains Medha Rao. 

That’s not how most of us think, though. Blame it on inflation, lack of time, space or sheer de-cluttering strategies. As the pile of useless gifts keeps growing, we grow wiser, too. We pass it on. One man’s clutter could be someone else’s treasure. And so the tribe of ‘regifters’ keeps growing!

In most Indian households, the child’s birthday party is the perfect occasion for sowing the seeds of regifting. Most parents believe that half the gifts are nothing more than scrap wrapped in fancy paper. Unlike in the West, where the gifts are opened right in front of the giver so as to express one’s joy, we, Indians, believe in maintaining some level of dignity, both of the giver and the receiver.

You see, kids still haven’t mastered the art of faking it! “I don’t even open half the gifts for they’ll only add to the existing clutter. But when the right time comes, I open the wrap, scrutinise the gift for cracks and sale tags. Once they clear the quality check, I rewrap and regift it. Of course, only after ensuring that the recipient is not even remotely related to the original giver of the gift,” confides Sheena Mathew.

If you think selecting a gift is a Herculean task, regifting – done well - is no less challenging than committing a fool-proof murder. You leave behind one trace and you’re doomed! “We literally stopped talking to a relative, who gifted us a tea set that had cobwebs in it,” recollects Kajal Mishra. “I wonder how long it had remained in their cupboard, until one fine day it found us.”

Here’s the thing about gifts. When given with love, they deserve some respect. It is, indeed, a sad phenomenon when people preserve gifts, not even opened, for progeny and hunt for new gifting grounds.

“My husband believes not gifting is a better option than falling into the whirlpool of gifts. There is no escape, for once you receive, it has to be reciprocated the same way,” says Kajal.Looks like no amount of Jaspal Bhatti jokes can dampen the spirits of people, who get the mithai ka dabba during festivals.

Sharmaji gives it to Shuklaji, who in turn gifts it to Chatterjee Babu, who in turn gifts to Sharmaji. And in the whole process, a sweet that was meant to make a gastronomical trip through the human gullet ends up travelling across the apartment floors, only to become a breeding ground for fungi.

After many trials by gifts, Neha Nitin has figured out the root cause of the menace. “Many times, gifts we pass onto others are things that we don’t think are of much use. Is it surprising then that the gift keeps getting passed along?”

That’s some food for thought. Next time, you gift someone ensure that it’s a worthy one. Or else, let it be flowers. “They don’t survive long enough to be passed from the backdoor,” says Ishita. Once bitten, twice smart. 

(Published 18 July 2014, 15:47 IST)

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