Saturday, July 3, 2010

The perfect gift

The Gift of the Magi” , O Henry’s beautiful short story, is perhaps something you read in school. It’s the story of Jim and Della, a young couple, who were broke. One Christmas they wanted to give each other something special. Well, I won't tell you the story if you haven't read it before. Read the story via the link - even now it can bring a lump to the throat. A moving story, that made a deep impression on every child.

The art of giving is a very difficult art. We are faced with this dilemma every day – what do we give – for a friend, or a spouse or a parent, or whoever. As we all know, its not the price that counts, its not the beauty of the object that counts. It’s the thought. But what CAN be the thought ? What is the most appropriate thing to give ?

Very often its very cultural. Take wedding gifts. In China, its easy. You give money in a red envelope. Preferable an amount which has a 8 in it (the number 8 is considered auspicious – that’s why the Beijing Olympics started at 8.08 PM on the 8th day of the 8th month in the year 2008). In India it used to be gold. Tonnes and tonnes of it. I simply cannot reconcile to the American habit of the wedding registry where the bride and groom register at a shop and publish a list of what they would like for guests to choose from. Yes, I know the culture is capitalist, but look how far has that country come from O Henry’s story – O Henry was an American !

Think back to how you have been bowled over by an extremely thoughtful gift. Rarely maybe, but surely once or twice. And how often you have been burned by thoughtless gifts which are bound straight for the attic or for cheekily being fobbed off as a gift to somebody else.

Granted, its not always easy to pick the perfect gift. And these days, we seem to be gifting every other day. But for those truly special, is it all so difficult to pick the perfect gift ? Especially if we know them every well ?

I write this post today, for, yesterday I received a perfect gift. Something that has left me all misty eyed. I am on my farewell rounds these days as I prepare to leave China at the end of this month. I was taken out to dinner yesterday by a lovely young couple. A young man and a girl who are due to get married in a few months. They gave me a book. A really professionally produced book, with a hard bound cover and glossy paper. They had downloaded this entire blog and produced a book out of it. Wow ! Double Wow !! Triple Wow !!!

Tony Chen and Corrine Wang – you have the spirit of the Magi. Feichang ganxie nimen. I have never received a more priceless gift. I shall treasure this, and the thought behind this.