The kid is growing up. She just completed another year circling the sun and it was pertinent that a gift is chosen. The wife had plans drawn for months now, just that I didn’t know. In parallel, the kid wrote a wish list on the fridge – I never noticed it.

Here I was – one week before the birthday without any ideas for the gift. I quickly turned towards the wife for some soothing words that did not include “I have been telling you…”. It was a quick and easy call that was made: we promptly purchased the ear rings that she had been planning to gift our kid. That was done. What about the wish list on the fridge?

Shopping for a birthday gift – one that is not going to be a surprise anymore – wasn’t going to be that interesting. The only mystery that we managed to add was to dramatize the whole thing: we made fun of her asking for such childish things even at this age, which made her resign to the fact that she won’t receive them.

Made me think about the concept behind gifts in general – the sense of expectation that surrounds us as we unwrap them – and the whole idea that we get something for free. (The word free derives from the Sanskrit word priya – which means “dear” or “love”. Yes, when we give out something to others without an ensuing transaction, it ought to be with some love.)

Choosing vs being surprised:

It seems obvious that most people love a pleasant surprise as opposed to fully knowing what they are going to receive. Not necessarily.

My previous company had an annual ritual: useful things like water heaters and glass bowls were nicely packed, gift-wrapped and presented to each of the 400 odd employees every year around the festive season. But during one of the monthly forums with the MD, a section of the crowd pushed for a change of approach. Most of us were still single and had little excitement to receive a kitchen utensil at this phase of our lives. The suggestion was to either being able to order a gift (from a catalogue) or collect equivalent cash.

The MD was struggling for words to describe the conflict between the original intent and how it ended up being perceived. But he was bang-on as he finished, “A gift is given and not chosen”.

Eventually, we managed to buy the items in the list without her knowledge and she had an unknown gift box in front of her on the day. Surprise.

Or was it ? Well, in her own words, the kid felt doubly happy about collecting the items in her wish list – especially after not expecting them.

PS: Turns out, the wife had advised the kid to make the wish list all along. I learnt about it after writing this piece. Now, that was a surprise.