Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Giver

With the festive season just past, wrapping papers and satin bows are still waiting to be smoothened out and put away for recycling! There have been gifts and more gifts, their exchanges following an established pattern of give and take, no questions asked. But, what about gifts of another nature? Gifts that are not entirely evened out, not always sanctioned and not even wholly needed or welcomed.

The teacher who makes a gift of her old scrap books to a favoured pupil. The mother who gifts away her wedding sari to a loved daughter. The student who wants to honour his teacher with a pen. The grandmother who makes a gift of table covers she embroidered in senior school. The aunt who will have you keep a coverlet she wove with her own hands. The father who passes on a frayed book entitled “Great Masters”. The friend who hands over her favourite fruit cover as a spring cleaning hand me down. The domestic who returns from his village, carrying a jar of rustic and pungent pickle. The great grandma who wishes to win over a processed food weary palate with homemade snacks.

We know the feeling. We extend our hand out, wondering where in the cluttered home are we going to put this gift down. There might even take place a domestic discussion on the wisdom of accepting the souvenir. It might be suggested that the largess be declined, it is not something we need after all. Who is going to maintain a rag-bag-tag of objects that have no practical value?

But, that is where the catch is! The value lies in the sentiment involved. The givers have invested precious bits of themselves in these seemingly ‘useless’ gifts. In those battle weary objects are woven the giver’s emotions, their desire to stay connected at a deeper level, their energy and effort, their affection for and faith in the recipient. It is the very human story of continuation, connection, legacy and carrying forward.

I have a broken fan for instance, lying in my cupboard. The rib is snapped, there is a hand tacked blue, chequered cover holding it together. It is lifeless trash for all purposes. But I am going to pass it on! It was Beeji’s constant companion. In my head, it was a witness to her violent end. It was with her in those hours of aloneness. It has heard all her conversations. The stem has the feel of her palm.

I have taken it out on occasions, spinning it around, turning it over and up, thinking about her. It is a reminder that we were not with her when she needed us the most; that she lived for our letters; that she counted the days to our arrival; that we made up the largest chunk of her thoughts and words and actions; that she dreamt for us and cheered us on; that she was very proud of us.

The day I hand it over, I dread having my daughter say, “But I don’t need it Mom!” 

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