A Birthday Present For Bhakti

 

It all began with a single goal, to craft that ideal present for a friend who may not like it at all. The fact that she’s a married woman (to a Defence Officer, no less) made it that much harder to find something that will suit this smart, outgoing, witty and rather selective lady of 30.

Surprise

The whole process went like cake-work, meaning it wasn’t easy and needed plenty of perfectly executed layers to make up the whole ensemble. As with all cakes, a foundation was the first requirement. It began with thought after thought amidst other daily work I go on with here at home, the two opposites—that of thought and activity—warring with my need to get this first idea sparked off. You can honestly say for a writer I sure did have birthday-present-block!

I knew then I had to ask the woman herself what she wanted and let her know what I was up to lest she be someone who hates surprises or, worse, hates the surprise I may have come up with on my own. I needed her home address anyway to send the courier to, so that fact served to encourage my sharing with Mrs. Bhakti Sharma—the soon to be birthday girl—that I was of a mind to get her a present and that I needed her help in fishing for one.

Tired of planningOne thing after another followed, with plenty of refusals thrown in—"Joshua, I can’t have you getting me a present, I dislike anyone younger than me buying me one, I didn’t even permit so-and-so to do that…"—followed by a bunch of online shopping sites I passed along on the Facebook message page so she’ll at least catch onto something and not be able to refuse.

I had to bring out all my persuasion skills and that decision helped get me a few hints from her side that allowed me the chance to scratch off a few ideas I’d already penned down (she wasn’t much for those things) and some shopping tips too.

Armed with those facts I got to work and the first suggested place I looked was Jabong.com where, relying on the snippet of info I got out of Bhakti—"I like all colors, really, I do, so no favorites, but I do like yellow, the mango yellow not any other, but then again I also like red, and purple and…"—I found an item that fit the bill.

Thus, a medium-sized yellow (mango-yellow, mind you) leather handbag with a beautiful design and flourish was discovered.

Next I aimed to fill that ‘foundation cake layer’ with some goodies that, in some funny universe, will serve as the rest of the tiers on that cake, comprising Bhakti’s birthday present. Seeing as how I had no time to go shopping for specifics I had no idea about (!) I started by approaching Mom and, with a little bit of embarrassment, shared what I was involved in and that I needed help with some stuff. What do I get her, was my one and only question to my Mom who helped with gathering three books.

· A nice cocktail book whose earlier edition was in my family since, like, forever but due to moth-eaten reasons had to be thrown out and a more recent print bought. Seeing as how Bhakti has parties at home now and again, simple yet classy affairs where drinks are served, I thought this number will give her plenty of advice. The book in question was found and gift-wrapped.

· A small dessert-baking book focusing specifically on biscuits and cookies, because I thought she may not have one of that, what with her love for baking cakes and making other dessert genres. The book in question was found and gift-wrapped.

· A large one came next, a book from the one and only Reader’s Digest company, namely their latest on-shelf-attraction ‘Food Cures’ which had some of the most practical and awesome info I’ve ever read, plenty of easy to understand recipes and lots of cool pictures and written content. I knew this number will make more sense to ‘Chef Sharma’ and how well she’ll find ways to use the data in there. ‘Food Cures’ was bought and gift-wrapped.

Completing the ensemble was a sensational sunset-hued red-orange silk scarf and a bunch of dangling girly-thingies that go on handbags and a pair of sunglasses I got off Jabong too. The danglers went on the bag, some others went inside, nestled in a small golden pull-string bag and the glasses went into a similar cover in silver and kept inside the case it came in, and the scarf hung out of the bag. In short, a magazine-worthy—I don’t mean to boast but I am proud of the way it all turned out—birthday gift for a lady of 30 who can take it out wherever she goes and look awesome with it on her person, and books she can use to indulge her love for food and which she could use to create culinary masterpieces.

The final product

I used another snippet of info from Bhakti, namely which courier service was competent enough to deliver the gift at home instead of making her run all over the place or go to the courier office to get it—the poor girl was crazed with curiosity as it is, that’s how much I hyped the present to sound like!

DTDC was my choice, so I headed to the Guindy branch here in Chennai and successfully gave them custody of the present which the man at the counter promised me would reach Bhakti in 24 hours and not the few days we both assumed it would take.

It did reach her but I guess it took a little more than 24 hours and, despite the fact that I told the man at the DTDC counter to not print the cost-details on the package, it had to be done that way as per policy and a very intelligent Mrs. Sharma fished out the slip and was shocked to find it had reached a 1000 bucks to courier it from Chennai to Pune and I had to bring out my persuasion skills all over again to calm her sentiments—"this is over bad, Joshua. It cost so much just to send it, and you’re so much younger to me, I’ve never even allowed so-and-so to do this…"

devil

At this point the only things running through my mind was the mystery connection my ‘youth’ and the cost of a birthday present. Hey, Agatha Christie, I got a tough one for you to write about!

Next started a game of bets where I bet her curiosity will win over her restraint and that she’ll tear open the courier long before May 3, her birth-date. But I underestimated Bhakti’s powers of self-control as much as I overestimated my powers of convincing, trickery, white lies and tempting.

Well, that’s the end of my story. The tale of what happened before, during and after my plans to create the perfect birthday present (or close enough) for a truly awesome friend.

I can almost imagine the moment when she sat down with all her presents around her, indulging a childish trait we all love to try out sometime, and opened one present after the other, got to mine, saw something yellow (mango-yellow, mind you) peeking out from the Jabong bag and said to herself, "That’s the Devil’s gift, right there. I’ll open that one first."

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