What to gift a thinking human being
My birthday is round the corner and I can sense the tense atmosphere at home. Hurried huddles and suppressed whispers between the daughter and her dad. Thoughtful silences. Because getting me a gift is possibly the most stressful exercise ever.
Anthropogenic activities, and not natural cycles and other things we can shrug responsibility off of, are responsible for that fire raging next door, unbearable heat waves a little ahead and devastating cyclones, floods, hurricanes all around. Not to mention zoonotics like COVID 19. Through our actions, we have ensured that the earth has warmed beyond a point of return — unless we drastically cut emissions, which is only possible if we drastically cut consumption. Now you see why you can’t buy me a gift. It is laden with carbon emitting processes and soil, air, water contaminating materials. So here are what I’ve received in the past and why they made sense.
1. Books. Paper sourced using Responsible Forest Products, with FSC certification. But have moved to kindle a while back to avoid having to sit, sleep and live on top of books. And we have library membership. The desire to ‘own’ a book has never been my vice. Or the desire to own anything for that matter.
2. Gardening equipment. One can buy fantastic ones from the Lohariya communities which dot the city in their little makeshift camps. They were originally nomads but seem to be staying longer at one place and selling their iron wares — from kitchen utensils to gardening tools. So I already have these and don’t need more.
3. Food. This always works for me, as long as the vegetables and grains are seasonal, locally grown and organic. Fancy cooking is not needed. Just the deliciousness of a lovingly grown vegetable, boiled with ghee is enough to make me smile.
4. Sustainable Clothing. Not a popular gift for me because I am thrilled with hand-me-downs and also haven’t changed much in size, so can wear clothes from 20 years back. More importantly, clothes don’t define me so I really don’t care for them (can you see how difficult I am?). But yes, you can now find sustainably sourced fabrics, using less water (1 cotton shirt uses up to 1 year of drinking water under standard production conditions), natural materials (read non-petroleum) and colours, encouraging local artisans and in many cases, reviving dying handloom techniques. So those are good ideas and I do buy them from Dilli Haat, every now and then.
5. Plants. They are always welcome. But now we are almost sitting, sleeping and living on top of plants. Therefore we are planting around our house, so that birds, squirrels and their friends can live on them.
Some of the mango saplings we planted this monsoon, were looking unhappy with the incessant heavy rain. The tender stems were bent and drooping. We spoke to them encouragingly every morning but that didn’t perk them up. This morning, I saw all of them tied to little sticks, standing up straight and confident. The daughter-dad duo snuck out yesterday and prepared this gift for me. My heart is full and I have nothing more to say.