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A Few Good Things

"Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." – Ibn Battuta

A Few Good Things

Navratri return gifts – a project by itself !

Navratri is round the corner. Its Durga Puja in Bengal and Garba/Dandia in Gujarat while in S India its “Golu”.

What happens in S india is interesting –  every women invites her friends and relatives for ” haldi / kumkum”  – the visitor is treated to a high protein meal of  ” Chundal ( Chick Peas)” and is given a “return gift”. The guest list is broken down in Category 1, 2 & 3.  Category 1 gets the best of gifts , is invited prime time ( normally a Fri) , the best “Chundal” is made that day and the associated snack is a meal by itself.

Houses are decorated & lit , this is the season when the ladies get their Nalli & Kumaran silk sarees out , the scent of Jasmine is in the air and there is soothing Carnatic music all around. Lots of positive energy in the air.

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Now lets do some simple math. My Building has 124 flats – around 20 Tamil ladies invite on an average 80 of their friends – thats 1600 visits , 1600 gifts.  (No wonder you need the high protein meal of Chick Peas Chundal if you have to climb so many stairs and walk to so many houses)

Lets now multiply this across Bangalore ( & I am not even touching Chennai ). Bangalore has a population of 8 M –  thats 2M Households (HH) , 30 % of of Bangalore Residents are Tamilians ( I am told that 30 % are Telugu’s,  20 % are Malayalees and 10 % are N Indians- so you can guess how many Kannadiga’s are in Bangalore !) – so 600 K HH are Tamilian  , if we assume that even 10 % of them decide to celebrate Navratri thats 60K Households each inviting about 50 people apiece. So how many gifts do we need , how many miles of Jasmine flower and how many Kg’s of Chickpeas  ? This would indeed be a good math problem for an IIT entrance on Permutation & Combination. Add to this the traffic criss crossing the city ! and delicately balancing time between your external visits and catering to your incoming visitors. Its a complex project.

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Which brings me to the important question of return Gifts. Its not just kids who are excited about return gifts from a birthday party but so are the “girls” ( Aunties). Traditionally what you got was a coconut , some bangles, haldi , kumkum and some eatable. Almost all of it home made. But things are complex now – you cannot repeat what you gave last year and there needs to be a dash of innovation to get an edge over the neighbor. What you get in Jaynagar & Malleshwaram is passe and meant for the masses.

We hunted online and could not find a single site that had a good variety of gifts – it needs to look good , have some utility & shelf life and should be priced within Rs 250 ( Here is a great business opportunity to start an online business).

I went utilitarian and suggested to my wife to get a nice jute bag and pack it with one Kg of Onions – in todays world that would be a great gift.  As expected I got ” the look” and there ended my useful suggestion.  A dash to Chickpet is common – and the wholesale Marwari merchants are suddenly deluged with  beautiful visitors who strike a hard bargain pinching for every rupee. Every single item is checked and rechecked and packed.

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Its an interesting job and you can well imagine the excitement in so many households.

Time is running out the search is still on – so anyone with good ideas do send them across. And the enterprising ladies – don’t forget the business opportunity it holds for next season.  Happy Navratri !

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4 Comments

  1. Pushpa

    Interesting read Anand! After much thought and debate, we here in Auckland (our prauer group) have gone back to tradition, of ‘haldi / kumkum’ and done away with ‘return gifts’ totally. We found that we were accumulating stuff that we really don’t need. It is now our third year with ‘no return gifts’

    • Good show – thats the way it should be , although if this happens here the Indian economy may tank 1 % in the festive season !

  2. Wow! Indeed an eye opener on how mini economies are sustained by hundreds of Indian festivals! An interesting trend in Delhi is to have your return gifts donated to charity. So, if your budget is Rs. 250, guests get to choose between various charities/ ngos and the money is donated there.

  3. Very Nice post about Navratri festival and good information about gifts . more gifting information visit @ http://www.diviniti.co.in

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