“Iss Saal Bittu Ke Liye Kya Kharide?”: The Eternal Dilemma of The Diwali Gift


“Iss Saal Bittu Ke Liye Kya Kharide?”: The Eternal Dilemma of The Diwali Gift

Illustration: Arati Gujar


There’s just one question that makes everyone from corporates to cousins go into a tizzy ahead of Diwali: Iss saal kya gift kharide? Before the Festival of Lights comes the Festival of Panic. Each year, we start with thinking we will innovate but soon we find ourselves saying, “Time nahin hain” and go back to the same old tried-and-tested gift hampers. They gather dust on the centre table of our houses for a few days, before they are dumped in the loft by Shanta Bai along with the lantern.

The spectrum of the Diwali gift is defined and hasn’t changed for decades. Service-industry folks gift their clients personalised calendars with awful designs; companies gift their employees a bonus component included in the salary slip; the favourite giveaway for business associates are dry fruit boxes. Relatives gift each other soan papdi and if you are feeling large-hearted, you’ll buy someone crockery that is Made in Chakala with a Made in China label.   

The other options are homemade chocolates wrapped in yellow or purple aluminium foil, expensive dinner sets “jo ghar pe kaam aayegi”, or the most generic showpiece. Internet platforms and brick and mortar stores might try to lure us with sales and heavy discounts, but we don’t waver from our rigid and boring ways. In fact, we have become such professionals at the baksheesh business that we can look at the size of the box, shake it for audio clues, and guess what the gift inside would be. While unwrapping a gift, we are also careful not to tear the wrapping paper or the box. Because if it is yet another chai or tiffin set, we can quickly repack it and gift it to Sunita chachi’s bahu in this Olympic-sized festive pass the parcel. “We already have soup bowls with floral designs on them. Let’s gift this to the Malhotras!” I’m waiting for that epic plot twist where the circle is complete and the white porcelain plates that you gifted someone come back to you someday. 

But doesn’t this dry fruit-sweet boxes-pots-and-pans routine make Diwali so monotonous? It’s time to think out of the (gift) box and reject these classic festive presents just like we’ve learnt to reject a bad Diwali release no matter which Khan stars in it. 

As we scrub our living rooms, discard old clothes, Google unique Rangoli designs and buy new Chinese lanterns, this Diwali revamp your gift hamper.

We Indians have changed but why haven’t our gifting habits? Since we all obsess over healthy food and track the number of steps on our fitness bands now, it is time to ditch soan papdi for alternative options such as gluten-free chocolate cakes and muffins. I’m kidding, we need to get rid of soan papdi because it’s a hate crime disguised as a dessert and the only people who enjoy it are those who also like elaichi granola bars and quinoa biryani. If there’s one hashtag that needs to trend on Twitter, it should be #BoycottSoanPapdi.

Crockery is so 1990. The West has now discovered that we can eat on disposable leaf plates and fancy restaurants in our cities have decided to give up on plates altogether, and serve food on blocks of wood instead, as we stray further away from humanity each day. In these changing times, our Diwali gifts need to evolve. Maybe it’s time to stop being so old school. Instead of gifting a gold coin to your son, explore tech products that are on sale with huge discounts online like OPPO’s Big Diwali Offers. Maybe it’s time to move over chocolate bouquets, frying pans, and dry fruit boxes (why does kismis even exist?) to portable hard drives, power banks, and virtual reality glasses (because actual reality is quite stressful, especially in this economy). Or even better, get your family a gift they will cherish for years to come, a powerful smartphone like the OPPO Reno2 Z, featuring the world’s first pop-up camera with bokeh effect video, so you can blur out all the needless people in the background on your way to social-media domination. The Reno2 Z also captures stunning pictures in low light using ultra-dark mode 2.0, so you don’t miss out on Diwali pictures in your society, with friends and family, as you send a rocket into that khadoos uncle’s house. If you want to gift your relatives an experience, then a Vipassana camp is a must, especially for those who follow debates on news channels daily. For the filmy folks, look no further than Housefull 4 tickets. (It will also please Ravi Shankar Prasad.)

As we scrub our living rooms, discard old clothes, google unique Rangoli designs and buy new Chinese lanterns, this Diwali revamp your gift hamper. Enough with the kaju-badams, the kaju barfis. Make Diwali gifts desirable again.