Ask and you shall receive !
By Sanjay Pinto

A tale of two weddings. The young couples, children of two eminent doctors, chose not just their life partners but also their gifts! I was happy to get the invitations along with a link to the Wish List of the soon to be bride and groom. We didn’t have to rack our brains over what to get them. It’s a  trend in the West that is picking up in India.

Man does not live by bread alone. So how many toasters and coffee makers and flasks and albums and picture frames and bed linen can any couple keep? Setting up a home is no mean task. Which is why it makes absolute sense to inform your well wishers what you need – the exact specifications including the brand, the price, the quantity, from the online cart, with updates on what’s been bought and what’s left. There was also a meaningful option to donate to a good cause, a case of domestic social responsibility! Not to forget contributions to the honeymoon!

When I was a kid, I used to wonder what was meant by the postscript on wedding invitations: ‘Please Avoid Presents’. Much later, I was informed that it was a veiled indication to dispense with bouquets and recycled stuff and give cash instead! Prudent friends would always advise us: ‘When in doubt, give money.’ Vitamin M has its advantages. It’s easy to carry, easy to receive and keep, easy to estimate(!) and serves to defray a part of the wedding expenses. Online transfers make the whole process transparent, even from a tax and accounting standpoint.

Weddings can drain out the couple and their immediate family. So for starters, soft copies of invitations, either on whatsapp or facebook or any other social media platform, are not just enviro friendly but also very convenient. You have it as a ready reckoner on your phone, especially when you need to write out the names of the bride and groom (in most cases, you would know only one name and an error here can be embarrassing!) or need to confirm the venue of the reception. Sometimes, even the date!  Old fogies from the paleolithic age who would insist on invitations handed over in person can stay at home and watch live streaming! 

How I wish the same cherrypicking of wedding gifts is extended to other functions and events. Some families and organisations have true class. Recently, at the end of a dignified memorial service for the legendary Mrs.YGP by the PSBB Alumni Association, the invitees were given silver coins with the school logo placed on a card with a venerable picture of the departed soul. Such an elegant keepsake from the family is an exception today.

Hosts of events end up presenting bulky plaques with their branding and your name engraved. Often a member of the club would be in the memento business and gladly sponsor such priceless gems. Did I say priceless? Literally too! When you run out of space to stack or stock such acquisitions, there is a Hobson’s Choice of disposing them. Guess what, even the old newspaperwallah refuses to take them today!  I’m not even going to get started on shawls!

Don’t get me wrong. I do concede that the best gifts in life may not have great monetary value. It’s the thought that often matters. The Joy of Giving. My mind races back to my childhood, when at my maternal grandma Camilla Henry’s place, we used to have the tradition of placing birthday gifts on the dining table at breakfast time. What would a seven year old be able to rustle up with meagre pocket money? I used to gift my Uncles – Tony, Francis & Kenny stuff like combs, shaving cream, shampoos and socks! The sheer joy of  secretly wrapping them, writing a card and the reaction on their faces on opening these humble gifts would be worth a million bucks.

The effort one takes to make a gift is another factor. In the run up to two consecutive birthdays, my mother in law Usha (aka Tamil novelist Vidya Subramaniam) spent days on end to come up with a spectacular water colour painting of the altar of Mother Mary at Velankanni and a mural painting of Jesus the Good Shepherd. These are personal and memorable and last forever.

What rankles is that when organisations have budgets for events, they mess it up by dishing out thoughtless mementoes. Why not offer potted plants or books or stationery or accessories or  fruits or nuts or make a contribution to an NGO in your name? The Wish List can be endless. All you need is a little imagination. And the willingness to step into the shoes of the recipient. 

(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate at the Madras High Court, a Columnist, Author, TV Political Analyst, Public Speaking Mentor & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)