One of the interesting things about Indian culture is the practice of gift exchange. Since we have many festivals, this happens more than once a year. People in most western countries have to do it only once during Christmas time. Fortunately, I live outside India. So I have to indulge in this pretentious ritual only when I travel to India. Plus my generally anti-social behavior towards relatives goes a long way in lowering people's expectations. Nonetheless, I have experienced this practice enough times to develop some understanding of it. Sarees and women's clothing in general holds a lot of potential for fun in this regard. This is not so because women are more petty than men. Get off your moral high ground guys. But, tis the case because women's clothes and sarees in particular come in a wide price range. For instance, I have seen sarees that cost north of 25,000 rupees. But, I have yet to see a shirt which costs half that much. So here are some ground rules that are worthy of your attention if you are to engage in "Indian" giving:
- Removing the price tag is not always the right thing. If you think you are giving someone a more expensive gift than they deserve, leave the price tag on.
- If you are on the receiving end of such an expensive gift, accuse the person who gave it to you of putting a false price label on it. Do this behind their backs of course, while maintaining a very gracious and grateful facade.
- If you receive a gift with no price tag, you need to have some skilled help to estimate the cost of the gift, so that you can reciprocate with a gift that is in the ball park. Feel free to low ball your estimate by complaining about some arbitrary things like say "the silk in our region is superior than theirs" etc. This will work just fine because you most likely got something that looks more expensive than it really is.
- Always relegate some people to the re-gifting bin, if you want to avoid losing your mind in this process. Just make sure you don't get caught. One simple rule of thumb ... re-gift across matrimonial boundaries. For instance, your wife's distance cousin gets what your distant cousin gave you. It is unlikely that these two numb nuts will ever figure this out.
- If you want to have an easier time sorting out this mess, just be more anti-social like me.