We are very excited that we are going to have a child, and I am sure all of you are too.
But please do not buy them anything or gift them money.
Money is fickle. Some people have more and some people have less. But everyone has a similar amount of time, and that makes it a lot more precious. If you want to gift them or us something, nothing can replace time.
If you feel like spending on them, do buy tickets to Mumbai in the next couple of years. It has been 12 years since I moved to Mumbai, and some of you are yet to visit. The next few years will be a great time to do that. While we do meet when I come to Hyderabad/Bangalore, the visits are always rushed and there is not enough time for getting beyond niceties. A leisurely visit to Mumbai would be a nice chance to see us in our ‘natural habitat’ and interact more meaningfully 🙂
If that isn’t satisfying enough right now, how about knowledge instead? The ubiquitous internet makes it easy to gain structured knowledge (or what everyone had for breakfast everyday), but personal knowledge is most often lost to the ages. How about recording a personal note (text, audio or video), in your voice, about an event/idea from your life that you’d like to relate to them? We’ll preserve it and make sure she understands it when she can. It’ll stay with them forever.
I am well aware that giving a small amount of money is traditional, and may be considered good luck. It makes practical sense to gift money when many people don’t have enough, since having a kid suddenly brings in lots of expenses. However, because of a mix of enterprise and fortune, we have enough money, and this tradition does not serve it’s purpose for us.
We’d like to teach our child that people and feelings matter more than money, having knowledge and experiences matter more than having things. Gifting money or objects, even as a symbol, defeats that purpose. It may teach a child to believe in what you say, and not in what you do, and I don’t think that’s a great way to do things. I think the best way to teach is by making an example of your own actions.
There are also practical reasons behind why we don’t want gifts. We are going to receive a lot of hand me downs (many in mint condition) and we are trying to be as minimalist and as environmentally sustainable as possible. Babies grow quickly and clothes barely last for a few wears before becoming too small. The temperatures in Mumbai do not need many clothes anyway. We do not want to buy too many clothes and then not use them.
We have basic storage space in our flat, and we like it that way. There is no space for extra stuff or things that we may need years later. Also, we want to avoid stereotypes. Many stereotypes for girls (princesses, hearts etc.) are retrograde and, I believe, can discourage beneficial behaviors in the long term. So, we want to be careful to avoid that.
For all these reasons, we would like to refuse money or objects as gifts. I know this is unorthodox, but we are going to insist on it, and we mean no disrespect or distance from anyone. We are just trying to stay consistent with our beliefs and with practical realities.
We will avoid traditional ceremonies regarding pregnancy and childbirth.
We value plain human-to-human contact over traditional markers of these life events, so we’ll just stick to that. We’d prefer a warm hug or heartfelt wishes. Between both our received cultural heritages, and our personal beliefs (which are not only different from our respective received cultural heritages, but also from each other’s beliefs), we have enough variety to fill an ethnology conference. With such diversity, it becomes difficult to differentiate religion with tradition. So we are going to keep things very simple.
So… hugs and wishes over ceremony 🙂
Although I wish I could, I cannot communicate these nuances Kannada/Telugu, so please explain it to those who can’t understand this in English. Also forward it to those not on this group whom you think might want to gift us something or participate in a tradition involving us.
We can’t wait to be parents to this person. It’s daunting and exhilarating to imagine the role we’ll be playing in shaping their life. No event in our adult past has packed as much change in one moment as the imminent birth of our daughter. We are going to do a lot of things that we haven’t given due consideration before, and often, we’ll need to think and decide on the fly. But we have had the time consider the practice of gifting and traditions carefully before deciding what I have written above.
So, please support us in this.
December can’t arrive sooner 🙂