It’s my favourite time of the year. The end-of-year holidays are round the corner and there’s a nip in the air (even in Mumbai where I swelter through the rest of the year). As a child, this was a particularly exciting time because of Christmas. It marked the 6 months my grandmother would spend with my family, bringing treats in tow. My sister and I would stay up at night block printing newspaper to gift wrap presents, tiptoeing to the tree after the household had gone to bed to place said presents at the bottom of the tree. I’d then wait in happy anticipation to watch how carefully chosen presents were received and to take stock of the goodies I’d accumulated.
Over the last few years, the conversation around Christmas has changed. I find myself engaging with the statistics on consumption and what it’s doing to the world we inhabit. The (greedy, as my sister would describe it) gift counting has shifted to paying attention to what and how I consume. I find myself asking questions: What do I really need? Is it something that nourishes and sustains? What will move the heart and delight the senses? With the change of question and re-thinking of why the gift, packages under the tree have changed. Seeds find their way there. Also plants, books, food, sustainable menstrual health products.
As someone who spent her 20s accumulating things, I find myself stepping into the flow that comes from a form of giving that sustains. In Lewis Hyde’s The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, (a highly recommended gift), he writes: ‘A gift that cannot be given away ceases to be a gift. The spirit of a gift is kept alive by its constant donation. […] where commerce is exclusively a traffic in merchandise, the gifted cannot enter into the give-and-take that ensures the livelihood of their spirit.’ Citing Homer’s hymn to Hermes, he adds: ‘Hermes invents the first musical instrument, the lyre, and gives it to his brother, Apollo, whereupon he is immediately inspired to invent a second musical instrument, the pipes. The implication is that giving the first creation away makes the second one possible. Bestowal creates that empty place into which new energy may flow.’
I sit with the idea of bestowal. Of energy and life giving forces being bequeathed with the giving of a gift. I think of time as a gift. The power of attention, being fully present with another living being. I am struck by the gift that it is every time I visit my 103 year old grandmother, and older people in my life.
With the holiday season in full swing, I’m sitting with the idea of different sorts of gifts. I’d love to hear your thoughts on giving and gifts, so do write in.
Also, on 1st January 2020 we launch The Curio-city Collective podcast and website! We are super excited and hope you will join us in the coming year to explore, converse and traverse the path of healthier and happier communities.