An e-mail I received from Good Earth recently,read,Youve found everything you need in one person… now find everything you need for your home at one shop. Good Earth and Fab India now offer wedding registries,the very American concept of letting your friends and family know what you want for gifts and leading them to the stores you patronise. Its still taking off since its just a few months old,but both stores say that theyre receiving plenty of enquiries,though guests are still familiarising themselves with the idea.
In India,we have a long standing tradition of shagun,or presenting money in envelopes with gold threads as gifts on auspicious occasions. It would be a real pity if the most practical and best gift ever (cold,hard cash) is replaced by a dinner set from a home store. Though a dinner set is infinitely preferable to receiving random silverware that clog our cupboards and eat up storage space in our homes. I am yet to meet anyone who drinks or eats out of silver,but since it has value,you cant chuck it. It makes you feel guilty while re-gifting because it too obviously is something you dont need yourself. Like fast food and Valentines Day,the gift registry is bound to catch on in India,even though the whole concept reminds one of too much of a lame Hollywood romantic comedy. There is a hilarious Seinfeld episode where the four friends present a fancy flat screen TV to a couple getting engaged. The couple end up splitting,but dont return the TV. Logically,it makes sense for newly weds to spell out what they need,so they dont end up with a cupboard full of expensive items they have no use for. Its easier for the guests as well as they dont have to wrack their brains to come up with an imaginative present. But despite practicality,is it appropriate and not a tad bit tacky to specify what gifts you want? The choice should rest entirely with the giver,not the receiver.
The wedding registry began as a convenience for the betrothed and their guests in a way that makes sense for our matter-of-fact lifestyles today and as a way to avoid wastage. Even if the heres-what-I-want list comes across as bluntly materialistic and more than a little presumptuous,its perfectly acceptable in many cultures,where,funnily enough,showing a preference for cash as a gift is considered crass. In India,the idea behind the godh bharai,right before a baby is born,has its origins in the fact that parents need financial help to raise a new family member,so cash is the right gift. And anthropologists who have analysed the gift giving ritual have come to the conclusion that people like surprise gifts less than they like cash. Having said that,no matter what age you are,there is some excitement involved in tearing off wrapping paper and hopefully,exclaiming in happiness at the gift inside. I find choosing gifts a painful chore and clearly so do most people; most high fashion and book stores offer the option of buying gift coupons,so the recipient can choose something themselves. The only gift I remember,come to think of it,was an iPod shuffle that I used everyday. As the old saying goes: its the thought that counts. But it should be accompanied with a gift of my choice.