The Man from Madras Musings is breathing easy, now that the wedding season is over. His good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed has now gone on to other things to expend her surplus energy leaving MMM alone and free from the care of attending weddings. But the spate of marriages had MMM musing on the way wedding gifts have changed over the years.

MMM is aware of a dim past when diamond necklaces, silverware and other such gifts were de rigueur but he was born in a more prosaic age. Among MMM’s earliest memories is of a doctor aunt getting married. A patient of hers gifted her with a ghastly steel cup (or was it a set MMM forgets). The aunt having put it away, rather absentmindedly gifted it back to the same patient when the patient got married. A couple of years later, the cup (or was it a set), came right back, when a second aunt got married. That aunt migrated to another city where no doubt the cup (or the set) was launched once again onto the gift circuit where it probably still orbits.

Mind you, a steel cup (or set) though hideous, is still better than the plastic ones that began doing the rounds a decade later. The era of the plastics was generally the worst for gifts and has mercifully got over. There are days when the mood is despondent and MMM can recall those cream coloured melamine cups with printed floral designs that were the most favoured gifts, at least from the giver’s point of view. If you got plenty of those, there were other excrescences as well. Who could forget the milk cookers – those aluminium creations in which water circulated and boiled in a chamber that surrounded the one in which the milk was poured? The water boiled first and the cooker whistled to warn you that the milk was next in line. It all worked well for the first month or so after which the whistle got choked with whatever whistles get choked with. The consequence was that the milk boiled over, the water having evaporated by then. But you did not have to worry, for you had at least half-a-dozen milk cookers on standby – all from your wedding and if you had not gifted them to others by then that is. If you were married in the 1970s or 1980s, milk cookers were the standard gifts, closely followed by electric irons. A close third was the ice bucket, perhaps because our city has hot weather throughout the year.

Far worse than the milk cookers, were the glowing lamps. MMM is fairly certain that the younger generation among his faithful readers will not know about these. They were hideous, comprising two metal florets, which held a coloured, transparent plastic cylinder between them. This cylinder contained water within. All simple and innocent you may imagine. The lamp was however a nasty bag of tricks that revealed itself only when connected to electric power. The water inside began to glow and what was worse, revealed several tapeworm like floaters that shone and darted about hither and thither. This was bad enough but some others had music in them as well. The only good thing was that the whole ensemble lasted a week or ten days at most at the end of which the water drained out. A rather cynical uncle told MMM that the lamp was popular as a wedding gift as it symbolised marital bliss and only lasted that long. But that, as MMM hastens to add, was his, the uncle’s and not MMM’s view.

One excrescence that is still going strong is the statuette of white metal. Nothing can be uglier than this, no matter what shape it takes – a Venus, the elephant-headed God or a horse.
And then, there were some thrifty souls who got away with the simple expedient of sending a greetings telegram. These used to be ceremoniously read out as well. More on them later…

If you liked this you may want to read about cash gifts as well.

This is also worth a read – Still more wedding gifts