There Comes Papa! Have You Got A Gift For Me?

I long to see and recreate that magic which gifts used to light up in me during those wonderful years of my growing up in my parental home! Will those days ever return???

There comes Papa!

Remember those childhood days when a gift from someone would send you into a feeling of euphoria!

In the evenings around 6, I would hear the door chime ring and there I would see my Papa returning from work somewhat exhausted. And it was not that I would go running towards him and hold on to his feet crying out, ‘Papa!’, although it would have no doubt made for a wonderful display of theatrical moment of affection. I would all at once scan his hands with insatiable curiosity, though. Was Papa having something else other than his small Samsonite briefcase that he carried everyday in the morning whilst leaving for his work place? Well, if I happened to see yet another plastic bag, a paper package or a bulging cloth bag – my excitement would know no bounds and my face shone like 100 watts bulb! But without visibly showing my excitement, I would put on a calm exterior, with my guess running riot at jet speed- what could have Pa bought for us? Would it be namkeens, or pedas, my favourite? Or could it be storybooks for my brother or better still for me? Or is it the toy which I have been asking for long or is it a red coloured ball pen? Or the most pleasant of all surprises, an audio cassette of my favourite Hindi film songs? Whatever the gift, it would thrill me down to bits!

Some days ago, I returned home from an official trip abroad. I excitedly opened my suitcase and handed over some precious gifts to my sister that I had bought for her exclusively. With a forced smile on her face, she took the gifts from me just like any other adult, looked at it intently; throwing in some comments now and then; asking a few questions devoid of much interest; and then put them in their rightful places in the house. For a minute, I felt dispirited. Where had the excitement gone? Is it not natural for childlike curiosity and excitement to pop up whenever there was some gifting by someone- and more so from abroad – mystical and unique objects?

Gifts were eagerly looked forward to and much more fun during my younger days. Gifts were rare and really hard to come by. There were no gifts for my birthday- yes it was new clothes, which was given to me with immense love by my parents. That was their affordability those days. Few of the gifts that I received were the ones which came to me in bursts, when my parents decided to accede to my requests of this or that especially when I fell sick, as they wanted to lift my spirits; or else it would be from a close relative or friend of ours who visited us after a long time. No gala birthday parties or bash and hence no scope for the eagerly awaited gifts! Whatever may be the gifts that I had received would be preserved by me safely for years and be finally discarded when it could no longer be used by any of the family members or when it became totally worthless.

My memory of my fighting with my mom for a pink set consisting of a snack box and a water bottle, when I was in Grade 9 is still fresh in my memory! My mom and I argued over the price of Rs.75 for around 15 minutes at the fancy shop; the price was something which we could afford. I very well remember that I never again asked for a new set in the next one month. Finally, my mom gave in to my arguments and gifted it to me wrapped in a beautiful pink paper. All this was forgotten by me after my school days, but several years later my mom showed me the pink set which she had so very dearly preserved of our argument( no doubt immature on my part in retrospect) that we had had several years ago. ‘Why did I have to fight so much for such a silly thing as this? My mom keeps thinking to this day and brushes it aside as teenage behaviour.

Gone are those days of excitement and in today’s scenario, gifts are a dime a dozen and have become mundane and commonplace. I just do not think twice before buying gifts for my family or my extended family as well– though the problem is that of buying something which they would want to retain or which they already do not possess. It is an expected norm that I gift something special to my partner from my travels and vice versa. These days there is this social pressure on gifting and making a big deal of some special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, academic achievements, New Year…..the list is endless . As a result, we are overloaded with gifts of all kinds – be it books, accessories, clothes, showcase items, photos…. for that matter any item – that picking up a new gift for someone is a painful and mind boggling exercise. Today, even though I have the privilege of being in a position to buy mostly all that I need and might wish to buy, I definitely do miss those good old days when my heart would desire for something and was not sure whether I would be getting it! There was a certain fascination about frugality when your other basic essentials were taken care of with love and affection by your parents, something that most of us born during 70s, 80s would be aware of. The component of surprise; the unspoken proclamation that whosoever it may be, loved you and wished to gift you something after taking time to think on it – those feelings are not kindled in you especially if you are an are an adult. Also, I am past that stage of a wide-eyed child anxiously looking forward to gifts! This is the reason why I recollect those fond memories of my Pa’s return from his office, sometimes with a packet in his office bag, which could contain some surprise gift for me.

Once it happened to be a titan watch after I had created a big ruckus that my elder sister, had been gifted a watch and not I-mind you I was just 8 years old then! Yet another time it would be a big pair of Kenwood headphones that my sister and I would spend long hours plugging it in our music system. I can still visualize the blue train with lovely bright red tracks that I would arrange in a circle and enjoy it chugging along with its choo choo sound! In the early 2000s, it would be a miscellaneous collection of tapes and CDs with albums of various genres. This was the time when our music collection was getting digitalized and we were in a state of excitement over the number of songs that could be stored digitally in compact tapes and CDs. I definitely love the effortlessness and the ease of life which my facultative spending power has provided me today. But at the same time , the idea of minimalism raises its head when I go shopping and I try to find more value in my purchases and in my gifts as well. My focus now is more on memories and experiences than in material things. Moreover there seems to be less pressure on gifting during special days like birthdays, festivals anniversaries, home coming ……. Well, I am unsure as to how it will be viewed by people surrounding me including my own reaction to this new thinking. I long to see and recreate that magic which gifts used to light up in me during those wonderful years of my growing up in my parental home! Will those days ever return???

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Image is a still from the movie Masoom


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