Diwali gifts: Traditional ideas with a contemporary twist

Diwali gifts

With Diwali in a couple of weeks in India, can Diwali gifts be far behind? Commonly referred to as the festival of lights, I also associate this Hindu festival with a burst of colour and finery. While its customary to give traditional Indian gifts like diyas (lamps), puja thalis (prayer trays) and idols of gods, I’m always excited to find things that are different from the norm while being great Diwali gifts for friends and family.

Here’s my pick of creative Diwali gifts that are bound to add a dash of gaiety to the festive celebrations. Since Diwali is also an auspicious time when many families move into new homes, these can double up as housewarming gifts.

Diwali Gifts

The first three beauties from Varnam are sure to brighten up any home.

Creative Diwali gifts

Love these multi-coloured lamps. The combination of the channapatna lac with the traditional textile creates a beautiful  riot of colours.

Creative Diwali gifts

These kuruvi (bird) knick-knack holders  sure are chirpy.

Creative Diwali gift ideas

A contemporary twist to the traditional barni (jar) results in a lovely tea light holder.

Diwali gifts

This stone-studded decorative plate and  beautiful tea set from Giveter  complete my Diwali gift list. Chai anyone?

Diwali gifts

Independence Day special: Indian gift wrapping

Indian gift wrapping ideas

Living in a country away from my own has meant that I’m hit by a wave of nostalgia and longing triggered by the smallest of things. Sometimes it’s triggered by the obvious – like seeing old pictures of family and friends back home. Sometimes it’s watching a fun Bollywood movie with its song and dance routine. On some occasions, it could be something I read or heard. Today, it happened thanks to it being India’s Independence Day.

I find that the best way to tackle nostalgia is to get active doing something with what caused it. So for today’s post, I’ve drummed up some Indian gift wrapping ideas and Indian gifts for you.

Indian gift wrapping ideas

I made these with a set of my Indian block prints and some acrylic colour paints. Using contrasting colours for the paint and the paper can give you a vibrant Indian pattern.

I combined a blue peacock print with a simple cream paper.

Indian gift wrapping ideas

For this vibrant pink paper, I made a band of marching elephants.

Indian gift wrapping ideas

I also found these Indian gift wrapping ideas on the web.

This one looks so fresh and colourful. I’m not sure I’d want to open this gift; I would be happy just looking at it.

Indian gift wrapping ideas

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Adding a bit of bling and shine to standard brown paper wrapping.

Indian gift wrapping ideas

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Indian gifts

Looking for some Indian gift ideas? Here’s a post I did earlier on gifts that have the distinct Indian touch. Here, you’ll find fun, unique Indian gifts in bright, vivacious colours.

Happy Independence Day to all Indians!

A little bit of India

I like to share a little bit of India when I meet people living in other countries.

So, when I moved from India to Denmark early this year, I carried a small bag of gifts with me. They were typically Indian: a beautiful pair of jhumkas (earrings), an ethnic cloth purse, a handmade diary, bookmarks and a couple of other things. Happily for me, I found the perfect recipients for most of them.

As my goodie bag has begun to shrink, I thought it was time to look for stores that sold Indian products.  Fortunately for me, I don’t have to make a trip to India for this (though I would happily fly back in a jiffy!). There are some wonderful stores that sell Indian products online.

Here is my list of current favourites that have the distinct Indian touch and make for good gifts.

The great Indian story

Know someone who likes India and wants to know more about this marvellously diverse country? Enter ‘the great Indian diary’ by Happily Unmarried (what a fun name for a store!). It is sure to enlighten them on the Indian obsession with Bollywood, cricket, culture, pet names and tigers among other things.

fun Indian stationery

Amazing yogi

Chumbak takes inspiration from India’s most famous export — yoga, with this cute little magnet. Bestow the ‘amazing yogi’ award on friends or anyone in the family who practices yoga. It is sure to find a place of pride on the refrigerator.

Indian yoga

Know a yogi with a flexible body?

Let there be light

Just couldn’t resist these. These are perfect for lighting up the home during Denmark’s cold, dark winters. Light them up and it will be, as the Danes say, meget hyggelig  or cosy as the rest of us say in simple English.

These bright and colourful tea light holders at Afday are inspired by the bharni, the traditional Indian pickle jars. But instead of ceramics, these are made of wood.

colourful tea light holders inspired by the Indian bharni

Simple and colourful…sure to brighten up any place

A candle in a bucket…simply adorable. I found these at Aniika.

a candle in a bucket

“Pick me up and light me bright”

Roll a coaster

This list would not be complete without something from my hometown Mumbai. And this set of Mumbai Scapes coasters by Playclan has it all…the Gateway of India, Marine Drive and the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus.

Indian themed coasters

That’s Mumbai on your table

Move over men, this is for the ladies

Last but not the least, is something from India’s vibrant handicrafts industry…beautiful and intricate jewellery and one-of-a-kind purses.

While my personal eternal favourite is the jhumka, this set of earrings with polki, stones and pearls I found at Aniika makes for a beautiful gift too.

traditional Indian earrings

A traditional and beautiful pair of Indian earrings

A little bit of leather and a little bit of hand-woven fabric makes for a perfect blend of the traditional and the modern.  I found these at Matsya.

Indian handicraft purse

A blend of the modern with the traditional

Go on; get a little bit of India in your life.

The simple, everyday people

Who are these people? They are the gifts that life, in all its wisdom, bestows on us.

A family that elicits in you a warm, fuzzy, safe harbour kind of feeling; friends who’ve seen you happy, sad, scared, grave and silly and love you all the same; teachers who indelibly shape our lives and mentors and coaches who chisel out better versions of ourselves with each passing day. They are the simple, everyday people who ironically don’t expect to be thanked.

I recently had the opportunity to write letters to just this kind of people.

I chose the letter to show my appreciation and heartfelt joy at having them in my life. The thing with letters is you can convey emotions and feelings you probably never could in a face to face conversation. It swallows distances in a jiffy and stays back as a memoir of your emotions, your feelings, your intentions.

My first set of letters, prompted by my move from India to Denmark, was to my sisters. On handmade paper, in the neatest handwriting possible (notice how it takes a while to get used to writing without any errors when your fingers are accustomed to typing and your brain is relying on spell checks) I wrote what they mean to me and what I love about them. In effect everything I always thought I would say to them but was too shy to do so in person. Somehow, my letters and the subsequent responses have brought us closer than ever before.

The second, more recent one, was an email to one of my teachers from school. It was her birthday and I was just glad she was born to be my teacher. I credit her to a great extent my love for reading and writing and my career as a communicator. Impulsively, I wrote to her thanking her for playing a part (to perfection) in who I am today.

The third one, also an email, was to a lost friend…that sadly remains unanswered.

But I live in hope and will continue to write letters to show my appreciation for the gifts in my life.

A baby shower

A custom made baby name sign

A name sign for baby Raphael

What's a gift with some pretty gift wrapping?

And it’s a wrap!

Today, I attended a baby shower for the first time ever! In India, some Hindu communities have a ‘woman only’ ceremony for the mother-to-be when she is in the 7th or 8th month of her pregnancy. It is called godhbharai in North India while in South India it is called Valaikappu or Pulikudi. The mother-to-be is decked in traditional attire and is showered with blessings by the women from her family and community. In India, it tends to be a religious ceremony while the western concept of a baby shower is oriented towards fun.

The one I attended was hosted for my Indonesian friend, Yana, by one of the girls from our Danish language class. Our host gave us a chance to experience a baby shower American style …but without the cheesy games! The entire room was decorated with ribbons, balloons and signs…all in blue. After some yummy homemade cake, a variety of finger foods and fun conversation we sat down to open the gifts.

Since I knew that my friend was having a boy and having pried out the baby’s name, I had made a cute and colourful name sign for the baby. I painted the letters in the name in white and yellow against a dark blue background. I then peppered it with some cute animals – an elephant, a whale, an owl, a butterfly and a bird. Some nifty work with gift wrapping paper, magazine strips and a gift tag followed to complete the job.

Little Hippo rompers!

The gifts from the rest of the girls included a cute hand knit brown sweater, a pair of pretty blue wool socks by Lisbeth Dahl and a set of tiny white and green rompers with a matching cap that said “tiny hippo”:-). The mother-to-be was of course thrilled with the baby shower and the gifts and a good time was had by all.

Wool baby socks

A pair of cute, blue baby socks in wool

Baby sweater

A hand-knit sweater to keep the cold out!

My top ten picks for mothers

This post is an attempt to help those looking for a special something to gift the mothers in their lives. Stop reading right now if you think this is another attempt to commercialise the thought behind Mother’s Day.  If you, like me, believe in celebrating all year round and not just specific days, don’t wait for Mother’s Day to even tell your mother how much you love and cherish her. Do it now!

1. Family tree: Check out this personalised family tree with some lovely phrases by Inviting Moments. Make your own family tree with motifs of leaves, birds or hearts.

2. Bird family necklace: Looking for something your mother can wear? I absolutely adore this elegant bird family necklace in sterling silver that I chanced upon in the Chiky store on Etsy. Top it up with a matching bracelet if you like.

3. M.O.M: The ‘Mom Operating Manual’ by Doreen Cronin and Laura Cornell is about the ‘most advanced human models on the planet’ and what makes them tick:-). Meant as a hilarious guide for kids and fathers, it will appeal to moms too.

4. Wooden post card: Instead of the standard greeting card that are dime a dozen, try this one. Given that I love all things Jumbo, I immediately fell in love with the one that had a mother and a baby elephant. But the one I’m suggesting here is a fun one from the Optometrist Series by Yvonne Leong.

5. Songs for my mother: This album by the artist Ronan Keating was recorded in memory of his late mother Marie Keating and also to celebrate Mother’s Day. The songs that Ronan chose are songs that he remembers his mother listening to throughout his childhood. You could create your very own album with songs that your mother loves.

6. Personalised cutting board: You know how mothers spend a lot of time in the kitchen dishing up delicious food for the family? Well, this one is for them. Created by Red Envelope, you can customise it with your mother’s name or the family name and choose from four design options of silverware, rolling-pin, pig or elk.

7. The Small Stuff Bag: This little bag by Jane Says Vintage can be used in so many ways and is environment friendly. Perfect for moms who are always doing so many small and big things to make our lives happy.

8. Sewing: Does your mother love sewing? Look no further than ‘The Sewing Book’ by Alison Smith. As the publisher puts it, “written by a passionate stitcher and teacher, with her own sewing school, eager to produce a one-stop sewing bible for her students, this book leaves no hem unturned”. Loaded with information on techniques, tools and patterns, it aims to answer every sewing question.

9. Engraved jewellery box: Personalization Mall, the creators of this wooden engraved jewellery box, allows you to choose from nine poems written for your mothers, grandmothers, godmothers or aunts. You can edit one of our poems, or even write your own.

10. Chicken Soup for the Indian Mother’s Soul: Being an Indian, I couldn’t resist adding this one to the list. This book pays tribute to the phenomenon of motherhood – the universal calling that requires the skills of a master mediator, mentor, cook and counsellor. For all Indians out there, this could be a thoughtful gift if your mother likes to read.

A piece of a place

Cushions with typical Mumbai phrases

A cute elephant motif passport holder

When some of my friends learnt that I would be moving from India to Denmark, they put together motley gifts. Ranging from cushion covers, bookmarks and badges with witty words to a clock representing a south Indian, they all had one thing in common…they represented something fun and unique about my home town and country. Another friend gave me colourful, passport holders that had motifs of things uniquely Indian.

They were meant to remind me of Mumbai and India and at the same time comfort me in a new place. It’s like taking a piece of a place you love with you when you move to another place. It could also just be a memory of a brief but beautiful time you spent…like a holiday. I call them my take away memories and I display them with pride in my new home in Copenhagen.

A Mumbai auto rickshaw

A Mumbai auto rickshaw

I recently created a gift that was a take away memory of Mumbai. A European colleague of my husband visited Mumbai for the first time and I hit upon this idea giving a painted auto rickshaw or tuk tuk as it is affectionately called in some places. An auto rickshaw is a cute looking 3 wheeled mode of public transport in Mumbai that can take you places quickly and without costing too much. I purchased a metal auto and customised it by writing Mumbai in three different languages…English, Hindi (the national language) and Marathi (the language of the state that Mumbai belongs to). Not only was it quirky, it was uniquely Mumbai…one of a kind!

Take away memories can be a meaningful and fun gifts. From fridge magnets, show pieces and mugs to t-shirts, key chains and bags, the possibilities of take away memory gifts you can create is endless. Just add in your personal touch and you can gift a piece of a place as I call it.

It doesn’t have to be diamonds

A pair of elegant silver earrings in the shape of a flower

A carved wooden jewellery box

Women love jewellery, let’s admit that. It can range from the simple and elegant to the ostentatious and over-the-top, but the fact is that there are very few women who wouldn’t be happy to be gifted jewellery.  Even the simplest Indian woman in rural India wears an amazing amount of jewellery at any given point in time…especially if she happens to be married. From the mandatory mangalsutra (wedding chain), wedding ring and earrings to the silver payal (anklet) and the gemstone studded nath (nose ring), the more the merrier!

I have two pieces of jewellery that are special to me: one is a pair of simple silver earrings, while the other is a beautiful bead and pearl necklace with matching earrings. The silver earrings were the first gift from my husband when we were courting. Coming from a guy who is (self admittedly) not good at giving surprises or choosing gifts by himself, the earrings were a very sweet and thoughtful gesture. The necklace was handmade by my friend for me. As a child, I also had a gold pendant in the form of the leaf that had Baby Krishna on it. My grandmother had got that for me when I was a baby and I cherished it.

If chosen with care, jewellery can be an exciting gift option.

A tip for those of you who are unsure of the kind of jewellery to choose: Women don’t always need diamonds to feel special. The secret is to look for the unusual. Here are a few things that are different from the rest.

Silver eaarings in the shape of a flower – elegant and pretty

A pair of jhumkas – can transform even the simplest outfit.

Anklets – perfect for those slender feet

Toe rings – Really different, but not everybody’s cup of tea

Bracelets – looks charming on all hands

And to complete the picture, a beautiful jewellery box!