The Present

There was a time in my life when I barely had many friends (I still don’t, but I have learnt to not miss them anymore). That year’s Christmas, a bunch of ex-colleagues made their way to my home, because they needed a place to eat and celebrate the festival. They were non-Christian, which my Mom was quick to notice and to make a mention that she always wished her daughter was more acquainted with a few Christians. Poor Mom. Poor friends who looked at Mom and then at a very disconcerted me. I entertained them all the same that evening, with loads of traditional festive food (minus the pork), some poor music and terrible photography. As they left later that night, the head of the group presented me with a bag, or rather a bundle – no literally a cloth bundle of goodies. Following my manners very strictly of opening a gift after the guests have left, I bade them and promised to be present for the upcoming Eid.

Present Day…

The world watched the royal nuptials of the now titled, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, including Dubai, that aired it at several public places, pleasing the British expats that live here. Several of them publicly commented on the bride’s grace and fashion, and in the simplicity with which everything was carried on. While the media is still busy making unfair comparisons with her predecessor – Lady Catherine or lovingly Kate, and her wedding to Prince William – the then King of hearts and most eligible bachelor of the time, Meghan Markle seems content and confident of herself, unperturbed by all the frenzy, and hopes she stays this way.

This event did not make me reminisce of my wedding, but the object of Bikram Vohra’s article did – about presents and gifts. In India, it is very unfortunate that wedding gifts are pre-defined to be either in cash or gold, with the latter earning respect for the giver, and fulfilling the age-old obligation of those closer in relation to you. Some of my relatives could afford it, but there were some I know, and despite my resistance to the metal, sold a part of their belongings in order to afford it for me. There were some (though not at my wedding) who even demand it, making givers of the gift a miserable and indebted lot, tarnishing a beautiful event therefore, which would have otherwise been presently beautiful.

My sister was solely in charge of the wedding gifts, and was required to keep a close watch over the valuables, after all we were overseas and everyone expected us to have a huge bulk of loot. On the wedding night, my husband and I got busy gathering the amounts and noting the presenter and the value in a confidential notebook. The amounts in cash as well as the gold were distributed among trusted relatives to bring along back to where we lived, so as to avoid the bulk of customs duty borne by a single person. Among all the wedding presents, however, there seemed to be just one person who was closely listening. Just one, who knew what I had liked, and presented me with a precious book on philosophy.

Just in case, you were wondering what I had received that Christmas – it was a bundle of odd goods – a torn ribbon, a half eaten chocolate chip cookie, a soda can, some cotton balls, some broken Christmas tree ornaments – probably torn away by force from the decorated Christmas trees on public display. The only wholesome item was a hanging Christmas elf, that I promptly hung that night on my lamp, amidst the hysterical laughter from my Mom and sister as they inspected the bundle and the stuff that came from it. It was the Christmas elf that made me warm that night – a gift from those who do not know the how and what of Christmas, but wanted me to feel special, and who went out of their way at the last-minute to get to me. It was the same feeling I felt as I held the book that I received on my wedding, all the way to my honeymoon, the truest of gifts, the connection of genuity.



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