For as long as we can remember Granny wrapped gifts in purple colored gift wrapping paper. In the 90s Navneet Publications had come out with a series of colored paper and the purple one was Granny's trademark. She lived on the outskirts of the city with Mamaji ( in Indian families the mother's brother is called a 'Mama'. The 'ji' is added for respect). His work was confined to the outer areas of Mumbai and we loved taking the train to Panvel from Borivali once every three months. It was a band of cousins of different age groups and our only incentive was Granny's bombil fry (Bombay Duck marinated and fried) and the gifts.
The gifts were not the usual ribboned brightly wrapped presents, just an array of purple colored boxes with our names written in neat handwriting. The wrapping was near perfect. Mamaji used to tell us how when a gift was incorrectly wrapped, Granny would take the trouble of rewrapping it. And extra gift wrapping paper was always bought or ordered in advance. The kirana store below the building stocked the age old paper just for one old buyer in flat no. 302. (Sometimes we wondered what would happen if Navneet stopped the production of the paper!)The boxes would be arranged on a table in a linear fashion with the youngest one going first. Sometimes a new entry in our family would mean giving up the coveted first position. We didnt mind that after a while, because well, who doesnt like getting gifts and that too thrice every year!
When we were toddlers, those gifts would represent the world for us, because it felt like Christmas three times a year! As age caught on, the gifts were a mere formality and even though they would be keepsakes, sweaters, books and hobby materials, we would open them merrily for Granny's sake.Gleefully tearing the wrapping paper, smiling at Granny for the gift, at times morose over the choice of gift and at times happy. In our blissful ignorance and our obsession with worldly delights we forgot the hard work that went into the process of creating the gift. And more than often we 'forgot' the gift on returning home. At times we were so preoccupied with the gifts that we never said a 'thank you'.Our feelings never went unnoticed by our keen Grandmother.
The gifts represented Granny's personality more than her generosity. There were never dolls for girls and trucks for guys. Even though she was born of a different generation, she never believed in toys that came with predefined roles for anyone. It was more utility based than style based. And each gift had her personal imprint on it. Even when she was 75, she continued to create these gifts. At times out of wool and paper and at times out of a local bookstore. I got odd things like Granddad's diary containing pages with some accounting info, sweaters and when she would have bouts of illnesses we all got letters of advice. Wrapped in envelopes that that were gift wrapped! The last time she gave us the gifts was before her 80th birthday. She was too preoccupied with her illnesses. And we remember pleading her for the past five years, to stop this quarterly exercise. However we never knew that those gifts would be the last of the lot. Somehow in her illness and her life she knew what was coming. Which is why one December morning when we were at her house, waiting for the customary gift giving ritual she made it clear that the gifts were to be opened after a week. We werent sure about the reason for that, but we assumed that there was more to the gifts this time. The younger ones were discussing whether there would be more gifts this time and plans were being made to exchange stuff if they didnt like. The older ones including me were more apprehensive. Eventually, we opened the gifts one week after she passed away. It was the same old paper that was being used for so many years. The same linear order . This time,however, all the boxes were of the same size. We wanted to open the boxes to treasure this particular gift and many other forgotten ones. And some of us wondered, what she would have left us as her last gift to us.
When we opened the boxes we found a handwritten note that read..."The gift of happiness is for those who unwrap it"
In her death Granny gave meaning to all the gifts over the years and to our lives which had more or less become complacent around the gifting ritual. It was never about the gift, but the thought of our joyous faces that made her work harder towards each gift. More than that it was about keeping it real and keeping it purple.