Tohfa Tohfa Tohfa: Why the “Perfect Gift” Doesn’t Exist For the Married Indian Couple

Social Commentary

Tohfa Tohfa Tohfa: Why the “Perfect Gift” Doesn’t Exist For the Married Indian Couple

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

The biggest challenge in any committed long-term romantic relationship is the process of getting gifts for your significant other. Trying to find that perfect gift once in a lifetime is hard enough but attempting to do it on every momentous occasion like the anniversary of your first fight or the first time you were both violently ill is like trying to get that flawless selfie on your first try: incredibly delusional.

In my experience, there exists no “perfect gift” – one that encapsulates the length and breadth of every romantic emotion that you might have felt for your partner while simultaneously making them feel like they’re the most special person in the world – for the domesticated and slightly bored married couple. You see, what constitutes the perfect gift for them depends on an infinite number of mood-altering variables like the gift the neighbour bought his wife, the amount of hair on their head, what their frown or loud sigh meant to convey on the day you forgot your anniversary, or whether the recent behaviour of the respective in-laws was polite or rude. What a lot of people forget is that this invariably makes exchanging gifts between this breed, a highly sensitive act that requires the diplomacy of a hostage negotiator, not the creativity of an ad professional.

Take some of the traditional gifts for instance. A long long time ago, my husband gifted me roses. In theory, it’s a great gift, capable enough to make you forget how he forgot to do the laundry for the second time in a week. But the flowers, that looked so pretty in the bouquet also highlighted the clutter in my house and my terrible interior flower-decorating skills. The moment I artistically arranged them on my dining table next to the mismatched bottles of pickles, assorted school books, expired medicines, and tiny pouches of chilli flakes and ketchup, they looked grotesque. Roses have now been permanently banned from my house.

Chocolates and other treats are also out of the question. The spouse with the expanding waistline or raging diabetes will see it as not a gift, but as both, a warning and a passive aggressive way of testing their dedication to their diets. After all, who wants their gift to spark a whole new fight? Yet, ironically, gifting them any kind of gym membership, fitness clothes or sports equipment also spells doom, as they bring out their inner Arnab Goswami and whittle you down to half your size for not loving them just the way they are.

And if you decide to rebel, you’ll end up with a spouse who gets increasingly cranky with every subsequent year.

Even though they’re extremely popular and romanticised, diamonds, I think, are the most self-destructive gift that can happen not just to your wallet, but also to your relationship. Why, you ask? Because they are forever. Literally. If you ever gift your spouse diamonds, you’re practically signing yourself up for a lifetime exercise of only gifting them diamonds because there’s really no gift that can match up to their hype. And if you decide to rebel, you’ll end up with a spouse who gets increasingly cranky with every subsequent year. I must add, this doesn’t apply to you if you’re Mukesh Ambani, Nick Jonas, or Christian Grey or if you find the drama of your partner’s wounded sighs and angry silences exciting.

Now that the magic of the holy trinity of chocolates, roses, and diamonds has been rendered powerless on long-suffering couples, it’s evident that we’re in need of wildly new gifting solutions. But as is the case with this breed, it comes with a few conditions: Something that’s not cheap or generic (forget that green blouse or maroon tie that has has a 60 per cent discount); that is not selfish (nope, you can’t buy that Harley Davidson that you’ve been wanting for yourself for your wife’s birthday); and not thoughtless (gifting your wife a basket of kittens or an adorable puppy is gonna work until she realises she is the only one who has to clean up after them). That’s not to say that these gifts won’t work. They might just, as long as you have a super comfy couch in your living room where you love to doze off by yourself.

Despite these obstacles, giving and receiving gifts also gives the average couple quite a high, so like a junkie looking for his next fix, they will desperately keep searching for the next big gift that will give them bragging rights and by extension, bring excitement, seduction, and delight to their otherwise mundane love life. Sticking to script over the years, my husband and I for instance, have explored all options: clothes, plants, lingerie, perfumes, furniture, food and some gifts… that don’t need to be mentioned.

But the only gift that has really stuck in my heart is a DIY cassette comprising all my favourite songs that my husband – then boyfriend – gifted me. Maybe it was the relative poverty of that time or maybe it was the first romantic gift that I ever got in my life, but nothing has come close. Or maybe its appeal lies in the fact that it wasn’t about the gift, but about the thought he put into it.

Take a deep breath and welcome this new phase in your relationship where gifts are optional.

If, like us, you’re a couple who has seen it all and done it all and just can’t find the right gift that expresses-it-all, don’t try to overcompensate by buying edible body paint or booking a world cruise just to rekindle the romance. Take a deep breath and welcome this new phase in your relationship where gifts are optional. Ease yourself into this beautiful state of mind where there is no pressure to prove your love by emptying your bank account on things that disappear into the blackhole of unused gifts which exists somewhere in the corner of your house. The world will not come to an end of you don’t gift your spouse a cheesy “Best Husband Ever” mug. Any significant occasion will pass quite blissfully because you’ve given your partner the ultimate gift: the gift of no expectations.