A Guide to Thoughtful Gifting
Gifting is as much an art of receiving as it is of giving.
When I receive a gift, opening the box is but a preliminary action, and taking joy in its contents is but an opportunity for understanding and appreciating the gentle intangibility of emotions behind the tangibility of the object itself.
It’s a defining moment. It gives me an insight into the person who has done the gifting. It’s a window into their soul and I want to immerse myself in this experience, a result of the generosity of friends or family, strangers or visitors – the one who has bestowed me with this offering. The who, the why and the what or what for, these are questions in my reflecting mind.
I think about the time, energy and thought spent in the selection of this gift – matters relevant to my inquiry. What follows is the insight into the individual/s who chose a few moments of their life on earth to make me happy.
The perception of value goes beyond monetary analysis.
Here, I present my perspective.
If someone wished to give me a gift, my heart would veer perhaps towards a handpainted or sculpted artwork or an embroidered fabric, or perhaps a plant that could grace my backyard. Or perhaps an activity of delight – a cooking class or strawberry picking would entrance me far more than a watch, chocolates or a bottle of wine. Let me stress that this is a personal choice.
If the giver knows me and the kind of person I am, they will grant me the joy of receiving a gift they understand I would cherish, that is aligned to my value system and the way I live.
My responsibility as a gifter is not much different.
During the happy and recent event of my sister’s wedding, I spent emotion and mindspace in the search for thoughtful return gifts. What resulted was a selection of handpainted boxes made from recycled plastic and filled with homemade organic laddoos (sweets). These were accompanied with organic handmade ittar (fragrant essential oil) made with natural ingredients in handcrafted, personalized bottles that were born from beautifully repurposed discarded cans. The final touch was a handwritten note on paper made from elephant dung. I believe this curated hamper was simple in essence, yet encapsulated the idea that luxury can be represented best by sustainable and unique beauty.
The word ‘sustainable’ is key!
More than a label or a gimmick or a stamp, true sustainability comes with altruism and meaning. The notion of wasteless consumption and an appreciation of hidden wonders and new discoveries should truly be ingrained in our DNA as citizens of the planet we live on.
Here are some gifting ideas for various occasions that I feel are wonderful:
- Novelty handmade products : I always look for local artists from whom I can and pick up pieces that are unique. Last year, I found some handmade door stoppers made from discarded clothing in the shapes of dogs. They were a perfect gift for my animal-loving friend.
- Seeds and plants : My cousin loves gardening and has a big backyard, and I always buy her a rose bush every year for her birthday. Now, she has a small section with all the bushes I have given her over the years with a terracotta plate that says “With love from Ayush”. How charming is that?
- Experiences : Strawberry picking, cooking classes, tickets to the opera or to a show and so on are great gifts. My mum always wanted to try pottery. Last year, we enrolled her in a beginners’ pottery class and I have never seen her happier.
- Travel vouchers : In Europe, I know of travel companies that do trips for those with unique interests. Travel options are thoughtful gifts that provide a wonderful experience.
- Charitable donations toward causes the gift recipient believes in.
- Personalized fragrances : There are companies that work with natural oils and organic packaging to develop ittars, which are quite beautiful. For instance, when we were considering my sister’s wedding favours, we came across an organization that did personalized ittars that came in wooden bottles with Ajrakh prints.
- Products made by using discarded plastic or other waste materials : I’ve come across many handmade products made by using soda cans, discarded rubber bands, crushed plastic bottles and so on. I’ve seen them being turned into lampshades, coasters, bracelets, jewellery, table top decor and more. They are unique gifts that help reduce landfill disposal, and are great for those who have an interesting sense of style.
- Products made by organizations supporting worthy causes and underprivileged people: There are many organizations that work with underprivileged people or specific groups to empower them. For instance, there are some in India that develop lovely clothing, working with women from villages, creating a source of income for them so that they can be more independent. Some of them also create homemade products. In Calcutta, for example, there are many people who work from home to make lovely, authentic Indian food such as papads, pickles, jams, namkeen and such. Gifting-wise, it’s a wonderful idea to create a hamper with a collection of several such products and send it to someone with a nice big bow and a card with details about the products. This will be much more interesting than a regular hamper. It’s a win-win situation that contains beautifully-produced items, usually with a low carbon footprint, made by people we can support.
In life, time itself is an unparalleled gift.
Our lives are a tapestry of everything that is a part of our being. What we encounter, what we receive and what we experience add rich layers to this tapestry. In the mad race for and of existence, opening a box of mystery may be a singularity but one that is a wondrous event in itself. Gifts that make us stop for a moment and appreciate the world around us are what I feel are required.
In the end, in the grand scheme of survival, there are moments that nurture us and define future generations. Choices matter, because they transform into legacies. The decisions we make, gift-wrapped and granted to the ones we love to enjoy, are really decisions about the future of humanity! Now is the time to decide what we want our legacy to be. That too is a gift!