Illustration by Priyal Shah

Listen to this Story
Narrated by Anjan Prakash

GIFTS – A WAY OF GATHERING MYSELF

There are things about me that I do not fully see or acknowledge – it could be because I am in self-doubt, or I judge myself harshly in some specific area, or I feel that it is no big deal, or take that part of me for granted, or do not pause enough to even pay attention to it. These parts can be hanging out right at the edges, and once in a while I can sense them at the corner of my eyes, but prefer to ignore. Whatever the reasons or excuses for this, known or unknown, I can many a times pass myself, and not see me enough.

Like with all self-work, the more I work on myself, the more I am supported to do so. Many little and big things come my way -sometimes challenges, at times opportunities, and, many a times, gifts. Gifts that carry more than what they appear to be. This story is about such gifts.

The last few months several really close friends and family members gifted us in innumerable ways. Each one shared with great enthusiasm why they had picked that particular gift for me, or made it for me, and what about it made them feel that I would love it. Even couriers arrived as a surprise, almost with a certainty by the giver, that I would enjoy receiving what they had sent.

I have over the years learnt the joy in receiving, and I resonate deeply with what Shree Rajneesh, also known as Osho, the Indian mystic, says: `Just as unless you give love you don’t know what it is to give, the same is true about receiving: unless you are capable of receiving love, you don’t know what it is to receive’. And I extend this to also include receiving gifts, as they are another expression of love. Gifts can be of words as letters, cards, messages, calls or mails, or they can be objects wrapped beautifully, or they can be interesting experiences curated for my spirit, or they can come as the presence of a person who arrives just when needed; whichever form it reaches me, I receive with tremendous pleasure and celebration.

If on one hand, gifting offers me so much about the giver – their generosity, thoughtfulness, effort, love, eye for details, and allows us to experience the joy they hold in giving, on the other hand, the act of receiving evokes such wonder and excitement in me, and eventually transforms into rich memories, as each time I see, use or sense the gift in some way thereafter, the giver is forever present through it.

However these few months of receiving, something more than these joys of receiving has been stirring within. As I sat with this bubbling cauldron of gifts, and reflected on the whole process, another valuable offering that gifts bring, began to reveal itself.

Receiving these thoughtful handpicked or handmade gifts, became a powerful way to see myself. I began to notice how each of these gifts revealed so much about me, offered me a deep dive into parts about me that my close friends and family see and celebrate a lot more than I do, and also became a window into a world in me that I had forgotten or overlooked. It allowed me to start noticing them ever so clearly and to acknowledge them. I share a few to show you what I mean:

  • A friend gifted me a sari, because last year a couple of times in our conversation about clothes, I had shared how sari is the one costume that I had never worn out of choice, and in 2022 I would like to do so, because I am amazed by its versatility. But I had mentioned, how I would wear it my style, in a fun way. She remembered this, and many months later, had picked up a red, light weight and vibrant cotton sari. Through her lens she saw me as being creative with fashion, to whip up a style, unique to myself. While I still haven’t worn what she gifted, I wore saris thrice this year already, in very creative and playful ways, all because she saw me as being able to do so, and her gift inspired me to go all out and experiment.
  • Another friend’s daughter whom I am very close to, made pot fairies and brought it along. She said, `Anju, this is for your pots, since you are growing so much food’. Two beautiful fairies, painted in lovely waterproof hues, went into pots where I had recently sown seeds and needed the energy of the fairies. This young girl saw me as someone growing my food. Though over the last year I have been in the cycle of growing – learning – failing- succeeding- failing when it comes to my garden, I often compare myself to a full time experienced farmer and feel I am not doing enough. And here was this lovely child, who just noticed what I do, and called it so. Through her I have now begun to see, ‘yes I grow so many things for the house which a year ago was a dream, and indeed, I grow my food.’
  • My sister-in-law gifted me a handwoven cane basket with gorgeous flower motifs and hummingbirds painted on it. She said, `Anjan, I knew you will love using this’, and then explained the craft gone into it. She saw me as someone who loves crafted things, as someone who would thoroughly enjoy nature-based motifs, and as an outdoor person. The joy on her face while giving it, showed me what about me she sees and enjoys, and this basket sits on my work desk as a beauty of inspiration. My plan is to head out on a picnic with it, tucked into it coffee- coffeecake- sandwich, to sit by the bank of a lovely river along with Keshav and celebrate all that the bag shows about me.
  • My dear childhood friend, each year for the festival of Makara Sankranti that falls in January, couriers me what is symbolically made as a snack preparation in Karnataka called ellu-bella (a mixture of white sesame seeds, chopped dried coconuts, roasted groundnuts, roasted chana dal and chopped jaggery) and this along with a few other things is exchanged between friends and relatives, by going to each other’s houses . I wait for this gift, because ever since my mom passed away, she has been sending this to me no matter where I live. Through this precious symbolic gesture, she shows me my culture, my mother, and brings back fond remembrance of sitting at home and helping my mom prepare all of this. A part of me wakes up when I open this gift each year. This year, my cousin sister also sent a package, and it was joy galore.
  • A close friend and his girlfriend gifted me a traditional board-game set called Adu Huli (Goats & Tigers), that originates from the rich Wadiyar heritage of Mysore. My friend said while gifting, `you are a storyteller, and we knew you would not only appreciate a handcrafted board game set that is so aesthetically designed, you would above all enjoy the story behind how such board games came into existence during the time of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, who invented several games and puzzles’. Wow, he saw me as a Storyteller, and explained briefly the history of Wadiyars, as well as the game, and that he had sourced it from Ramsons Bombe Mane (Doll House), Mysore. As much as I have been writing regularly for the past one and half year, to be declared as a storyteller by someone so close, gave me such joy that on my Instagram handle, I went ahead and added ‘Storyteller’ below my name.

Through each of these gifts I receive now, I have begun to see myself more. I mention just a few above, but there have been many – a bunch of wildflowers that stirred up the spirit of wildness in me; a hand-made Christmas card with Origami in it, as this art form excites me; a silver-coated Rudraksha chain because I love Lord Shiva (for one, he is tall, dark, handsome); an illustrated 2022 calendar by an illustrator friend with colourful splashy illustrations of Indian spices that reminded me how much I enjoy wild illustrations and food ingredients; earrings – notebooks – pottery with rich nature motifs; an animal world painting all in celebration of the natural world; beautiful emails, messages and calls from those who read my posts or write me a friendly note. Each reveal or reaffirm a piece of myself to me. That I love to wear and enjoy nature on me and around me in all forms; that I love art and craft; that I love learning about the culture and history of a place and its people; that I love food that carry stories; that I carry fond memories of childhood; that I treasure friendships and relationships; that I love hearing from those I love; and as I see each of these gifts that surround our home, or we use them in some form, today, I also sense and celebrate that part of me, as much as I celebrate the giver.

Toni Morrison, the author, writes these beautiful words, “She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.”

In some ways, that is how I feel today. Gifts are a way to allow myself to be gathered by those who love me, and show it to me in different ways, so I can see the many parts of myself better. And through this rich grateful insight, I hope a gift I give, in any form, is a part of such gathering up of the parts of the receiver.

Thanks to each one of you out there who have meticulously gathered me through your thoughtful gifts, showing so much of myself to me. Today I do not walk past myself as much, because I use all of what I receive every day from people who matter, as my mirror.

I would love to hear what this piece evoked in you. What have gifts brought you? In your sharing, I have through each post been seeing and learning so much more. So do keep those gifts coming.

Thank you for listening. Happy weekend of receiving, that fill our days – from Mother Nature and through all who love us.

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Comments(2)

    • Ashvin Shivaraju

    • 5 months ago

    Truely, gifting and as well receiving gifts both give us joy.
    Past one year I am happy to be involved in both, which was not so 2 years ago.

    When I receive, it makes.me feel that, oh….that person still remembers me, how nice.
    When I send out gifts, it would be for something I am grateful for in that person, because usually we dont gift to strangers.

    End of every season, I give away my last season’s clothing after washing.
    This is considered as charity, also a kind of gifting to strangers and needy people or to whom we feel, yes, I should give him, he will be happy.

    Anjan, please correct me if I am wrong.

    Thanks
    Ashvin

    1. Thanks Ashvin for sharing about both giving and receiving. Yes, true, we gift to those we know, those who matter to us or have had an impact on us in a way that is meaningful to us. How lovely to hear of your giving away of each season’s clothes once the season goes by. I have seen your efficient, satisfying, minimalistic approach, and it is very beautiful. And thanks for your generosity to those around you who might need it maybe more than you do. Yes, not only are the people who receive it happy, but you also do it because it makes you happy. In both giving and receiving, both feel the joy. You show me in many ways how to give Ashvin, so thank you. Blessed to have a brother like you! And when you share I learn so much from your way of seeing things.

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