Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 09/9/03 2:44 PM

Feature: A Matter of Gifting

A matter of gifting

When it comes to giving, size does not matter; what matters is affection, a large heart.

For years and years now, she had been playing Lady Bountiful but in the nicest sense ever. She was the sibling settled abroad. She had always been equipped with the most generous heart possible but this generosity became all the more evident when the currency was dollars.

The gifts started out small in size: bottles of body lotion, a pepper mill, pretty hair bands for the little girls in the family. The maids got inexpensive saris which thrilled them to bits.

The driver invariably got a wall clock till we realised the man could well start his own clock shop! Once, the tailor down the road got a nifty pair of scissors. The men of the clan got bottles of

The years passed and the gifts, we noticed, grew in size. Now when she came home for the summer holidays, she would bring one suitcase packed with gifts…bed linen, embroidered tablecloths, silk flowers (a big favourite with our mother), formal shirts, floral skirts, handbags, coffee mugs. The
little ones got really lucky, with new wardrobes of sumptuous frocks, Barbie kitchen sets, really interesting age-appropriate books.

When Harry Potter made his worldwide debut, the kids acquired an enviable collection of souvenirs from stationery to wristwatches with fake Hedwig-the-owl fur straps, to even the Sorting Hat!

After which, the gifts grew small again but expensive: now we were getting pieces of jewellery, our menfolk were getting gold cufflinks, our children were getting top-draw sneakers, riding boots and
the like.

Now, virtually everyone likes to give gifts. And of course, we all like to give some thought to the gifts we pick for our near and dear ones. Where our sibling differed was the way she unerringly combined her exquisite taste with our individual yearnings, to make her gifts items to die for.

When one of us suffered from an allergy to benzyl peroxide, she got cosmetics for sensitive skin. Another time, neat wallpaper inserts helped paper over the messy cracks in a wooden writing table. Mom’s life became so much easier with little pillbox separators, slippers with special inseams and thermal vests so soft, they felt like pashmina.

After a while, we’d protest such overwhelming generosity, or offer to pay for some of the more expensive must-haves. She’d agree, bring the stuff down and then, absolutely refuse to take money for them. We found the only way to repay her was to add to her ethnic chic collection of bric-a-brac and clothes.

Then, my other sister and I went to Europe and it was time to buy presents for our giving sister. We put together a hamper of small items, clothes, cosmetics, toiletries, books and the like. Heart in our mouths, we then sent them off to her. Would she like these small tokens of our affection and deep gratitude?

The response was not long in coming. She called to say that receiving the hamper was like Diwali and
her birthday had rolled in together. Her logic was simple: ‘’Most people buy me one or two large items; you guys got me a whole lot of lovely little things….believe me, nothing could have pleased me more!’’

One thing was proved: Small or big, it really is the thought that counts!

This ran in DECCAN HERALD of 9 Sept 2003.


Sheila Kumar • September 9, 2003

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