The other practice I started was to get her gifts whenever I went outside the city – something completely out of character for me.
Every time I wander into a consumer product shop, the first question that shoots up in my mind is “What exactly am I doing here?”. I’m simply not cut out for buying stuff – in this age of ultra-consumerism, I must look like a Neanderthal.
While I did try buying conventional gifts for amma in the beginning, I soon gave up. It was impossible to know whether she would ever like or use what I bought.
So, rather than trying to buy gifts that I was not sure she would value, I started with things she liked and looked for anything gifty that would be aligned with them.
One “gift” I gave her were the mementos and bags given to me at the cleantech and sustainability conferences I spoke. These mementos made her immensely proud, and she took them around and showed to our relatives next door. And boy, she loved bags, though I never figured out how she used most of them.
The gifts many times were the small, nice-looking tin boxes supplied by many Indian airlines, in which they packed cashew nuts. Sometimes, in addition to the box of cashews I bought, I would ask the air hostess to give me any empty nut cases that were returned by passengers. Some of the air hostesses’ looks suggested that they considered me a nutcase too.
Amma liked these nut cases a lot. In fact, I’m positive that these made her more happy than any expensive jewels I could have bought for her.
Fig 27. The nut case provided by a prominent Indian airline
The other “gift” I “gave” her were the 5-rupee and 10-rupee coins. She just loved collecting these – so much that I would many times catch her rummaging through my purse for these at night! Whenever I received one of these coins anywhere, I would safekeep them to be delivered to amma at the end of day.
Fig 28: Amma’s coin collection. She just loved 5 and 10 rupee coins and regularly put them in a boxes such as these
When I think back, I realize how little were the extra efforts I had put in to get these gifts.
What had changed was not the efforts, but the mindset. And in my mind, amma had set herself right in front.
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