Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 31, Tuesday, February 8, 2005




The art of Gift-giving

A little girl once received the best birthday present of all: an enormous doll's house made out of cardboard paper. It looked like Alice in Wonderland's magical garden maze with hidden nooks and crannies, tiny trapdoors painted in bright colours, and the smallest cardboard furniture you've ever seen. That little girl was me, and my mother and I spent many a happy hour creating a miniature wonderland out of plain cardboard paper which had made for a most memorable occasion.

Gifts are more often than not, an expression of how you feel towards the recipient. Whether it is an occasion such as a birthday, an anniversary, or a wedding, some amount of thought and care must go behind it, unless you want some secretly disappointed friends and relatives on your hands. If it were someone very dear, you would naturally want to make it special, and all of this requires some amount of planning.

Many will be familiar with the practice of setting aside a special gift budget every month. It would be wise if, along with it, one were to make a list of possible gift items one might give. This too must not be any boring, random list that one could palm off to just about anyone. It should have that personal touch which makes the recipient feel unique.

Such a list must be made with care; say for instance, you're out window shopping with a teenage cousin who simply adores a pair of shoes on display. Make a mental note and write it down on your list. A pre-teen/teenage daughter or sister, who loves to embellish her room, will simply love the idea of having her room re-decorated and re-furnished the way she always wanted it. If you have a rather intelligent sixth grader nephew who's particularly interested in the sciences--someone that would rather read than tinker with toys for instance-- he won't be too thrilled to get a shirt, no matter how nice you think it looks on him. Instead, you could get him a book on general knowledge or one on science experiments. Subtleties such as these make all the difference.

For those who usually have no way of finding out what their friends and relatives might be fond of, people's personalities and their homes instantly reveal what kinds of gifts they might like. If an uncle's home for instance has many plants and ferns, it indicates that he has a green thumb. You could collect, small ceramic and colourful clay pots, even porcelain cups of different shapes and sizes, purchase plants/flowering and cactus plants separately and grow them for him. No doubt, your plant-loving uncle would be delighted to have more additions to his garden or balcony. If you have a newly married girl cousin, or perhaps an aunt who loves her kitchen, you could purchase a set of cookie jars or make your own spice rack with glass containers to keep the spices in. A carpenter can do the job of making a small wooden case, and those glass bottles/containers you hadn't thrown away will come in handy. Fabric paint can be used to scroll in 'cumin', 'red pepper,' 'cinnamon' etc (fabric paint can also be used to decorate those cookie jars), and this would make for a nice handcrafted present for a special occasion or someone you deem special.

Grandmothers and mothers-in-law will appreciate handcrafted gifts as well. If your mother-in-law loves to drink tea, you could purchase/make (with the help of that magician carpenter of course) a small plywood box with slots, fill it up with good blends of different kinds of tea (eg. tea from Africa, Ceylon, India and so on), and voila, it will be your mom-in-law's favourite treasure chest. A patchwork quilt you've made with time and care will not only warm your grandmother's toes, but the cockles of her heart as well, and grandmoms no doubt love handcrafted gifts more than anything. (For this gift, you have to accumulate shreds of different kinds of fabrics, keeping of course, a consistency throughout in terms of prints and shades. And yes, you need the time to actually sit down and make it, or, if you're really pressed for time, have it made to order without granny ever finding out!)

If your mom is fond of birds, make her a plywood birdfeed, complete with a small tray to keep water in, and paint it yourself. Add some birdseed as a finishing touch, and hang on her balcony or outside her window. It would make for a lovely surprise birthday present.

Children and babies more often than not make for the most difficult of recipients. For example, one may be at a loss when a six or eight year old's birthday is around the corner. A little boy will love a collection of matchbox cars, and a little girl will simply adore a set of handmade (or purchased) clothes for her dolls. Johnson's baby products now have a line of gift sets consisting of lotions, powders and soaps, which make for an ideal gift for a newborn or toddler.

Planned day trips and free tickets for your friends, an exotic home-cooked dinner for your wife on your wedding anniversary (provided you can actually cook), all make for thoughtful and fun gifts as well. If a home-cooked meal seems impossible, an album can be made to order, with velvet binding or other. At Nilkhet, there are various binding shops where one could also bind (if you use velvet, leather, etc, it'll cost you Tk80-Tk100) and laminate a copy of favourite poems / quotes and gift to a loved one.

Tiny surprise gift baskets filled with goodies would be delightful to receive as well. A friend who loves to dress up for example will love the idea of a nicely embellished basket, with make-up and sample perfumes. Or a teenager who loves comics and stationery would be ecstatic to receive an assortment of them. A 14-15 year old would also be ecstatic to receive a set of glitter lip glosses, colourful plastic bangles, and a waist-belt.

The thought behind a gift, the originality and innovation that goes behind making it increases the recipient's pleasure ten-fold. And that sometimes, is what makes giving a gift so much more fun than receiving one.
By Rubaiyat Khan


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