As far as I can remember, Amul chocolates were perhaps the first ones to cash in on the whole "gift for someone you love" idea in India, much before Archies and Hallmark came about and created a thousand reasons to buy cards, pendants, cassettes and a whole plethora of gift items.
I was considered one of the uncool ones in school, I didn't believe in Valentine's Day. According to the Valentine's Day myth, if you 'proposed' someone, they had to say yes. The idea had terrified me, more so because a) I didn't have that many suitors and b) I was rather shy then (!). After much resistance I decided it was worth the effort of making a Valentine's Day card... Only to learn I was still uncool because who wanted a hand-made card? Archies had much better options. So I scraped money to buy one only to be told there was a Rose Day and a Chocolate Day card -- and a rose and chocolate respectively -- to be bought as well...
Then suddenly there was Friendship Day, quickly followed by Teachers Day (strangely, Independence Day cards never really sold...) I didn't get a whole lot of pocket money and therefore the most prudent thing to do was not participate in any of it. It didn't do much to my popularity and till date, the record stands that I've never received a Valentine's Day card. In fact, for some unusual reason -- there's a research on that somewhere -- come 14 Feb, I've usually ended relationships/associations.
Somewhere in my late teen years, there started the whole thing about Mother's Day, quickly followed by Father's Day and Save the Dolphin Day or the belated versions of all these cards and days or a Sorry card to well, say sorry if you missed any of the days...
The cards I've treasured and went to some lengths to make were the birthday and anniversary cards, mostly hand-made. I was one of those kids who are very good at copying stuff. I was a pro at 'making' Garfield, Donald Duck and other cartoon figures and had quite a flair with water colours... For at least 8-10 years, my parents have received various versions of cartoon couples for their anniversary, which changed to various water colour flowers as I grew up.
My family knew I liked funny cards and those were the ones I got for my birthday. The most treasured cards though -- I still have them -- were the ones made by my little brother (who's now a foot taller than me and in his first job! Yay!) Like this particular one that said 'The World's Greatest Sister' -- made from an A4 'register' sheet, folded into a card, a mug cut out from one side of the sheet, coloured with crayons and stuck on the other side with a cotton ball under it. The card was magical, the spellings were perfect (heh, he was 6/7 years old) and it had a 3D effect... Now I don't make cards, neither does my brother and in fact after many years we managed to be together for his birthday this year when I was visiting India.
In Australia, it's a big thing to celebrate the 18th, followed by the 21st, then 25th and then 30th and so on... Maybe because we shifted cities so much, or because our father was strict or whatever, we never really had any memorable teenage birthdays. Rather they involved only the four of us. This year, in June, we went out, Partner, Brother, me, Dee and another Aussie-friend-in-India... and had a blast. Later in the hotel room, my now-grown-up brother said, "Dibhai, this was my best birthday ever." He turned 25, oh I love him. I am also digressing...
Increasingly today I find that wedding couples, engagement couples, expectant mothers, birthday candidates... Everyone prefers cash instead of a gift. Those who have to give gifts are relieved they don't have to think much, those receiving are relieved because at least they can use the cash instead of getting something they don't want or already have.
In fact in Australia, there is a list of gift items to select from at weddings. So as an invited guest, you see the list and pick what you want to 'gift'. Some weddings even tell you the store the couple would like the gift from. I find it quite amusing and somewhat depressing. Aren't gifts supposed to be thought out? Something that shows you know the person you're giving it to and have put some effort thinking about it? Is it still a 'gift' if you're asking for it? If there is a demand list? Or is all just a scam?
Now there are advertisements everywhere for what to buy your Mom or Dad for Mothers and Fathers day respectively. It's all the same stuff. While I've never had trouble buying mom something, buying gifts for Dad was always a challenge. It seems it's the same thing the world over...I wonder if they too would prefer cash.
What's the best gift you've received or gave that the other side really liked?
Pic courtesy: edupics