For the longest time after I moved to Delhi, I did not understand the craze around Diwali gifting. The noise, crazy traffic, and crowded markets left me irritated and angry. But what I disliked the most is how impersonal these gifts were: a chocolate packet for people who may be diabetic, crystal glasses for people who do not drink, months old dry fruit trays, weeks old pre-packed Mithai. Then there was passing on of gifts. Mr Sharma gave Mr Verma what Mr. Gupta had received from Mr. Mishra — you were lucky if your gift didn’t return to you. That is one reason perhaps I never bought Diwali gifts for anyone — I was afraid that I’d end up in the same soup of exchanging meaningless stuff.
The experience taught the value of a good gift. It helped that I have, over the years, not only escaped the wrath of Vermas, Sharmas, Guptas and Mishras but also received some thoughtful presents which I know were bought especially for me.
And so, I chose my gifts with love and care too; mindful of what the receiver likes and yet finding a way to share something I cherish. Since Diwali is just around the corner , I thought I’d share with you a few gifting ideas that I have shortlisted from the maddening array of things in the market. These are either things that I have bought, or plan to buy for my family & friends, and for each I can take personal guarantee. Not only that, every one of these brands is owned and run by women — on their own — and are not made in bulk in factories by underpaid labours.
1.White Hill Studio
Those who know me know how much I love Nandita’s work. White Hill Studio, the brain child of this young woman is one of the most beautiful brand in the current times. Her minimalist, contemporary designs are inspired by nature and the jungles of Corbett and Mashobra. Her collections tell stories we otherwise do not have the time to listen to, and her work is world class. While some of White Hill’s collections are made in a factory, some are made by hand. The design stories are illustrated by hand too, as are all the etchings and carvings. The pieces are packed with love along with a handwritten note and delivered to you or your friends promptly and professionally. That your friends will not only love it but also buy more from her comes as an added bonus. White Hill Studio retails out of select outlets across the country and also through their website and Instagram page.
2. Natasha’s Artisanal I met Natasha at a wine tasting and instantly connected with her. As someone who deeply values the effort going into cooking, writing, taking pictures, and running your own shop, I was blown when I heard she did everything on her own. In the past few months I have not only seen her phenomenal work — and the scale of it — but have also tasted her food. Cheesecakes that melt in your mouth, cookies that are perfectly chewy, cinnamon rolls that can bring a dead man back from his grave, and breads that will have you eat at home everyday. On Diwali Natasha is bringing small batches of made to order gifts which are not only delectable but healthy too. Things like Granola jars, Baklava pull apart bread, Mini Meringues, Coffee Biscotti, Cheddar Cheese And Thyme Cookies — the things you can get are amazing as they are healthy. You can order at Tasha’s Artisan Foods or on Instagram and Facebook.
3. A Clay Story
To tell you the truth, I met Anumita through Nandita. So much in love I was with the Cuckoo Mug and Platter that I had to know the person who made it. And so, I got to know the very young and talented Anumita of A Clay story. A NIFT Graduate, Anumita may have learnt pottery at Andretta but has her own individual style. Muted, earthy, and minimalist pieces set her work apart from heavily glazed or adorned pottery in the market. Deeply influenced by Japanese aesthetic of wabi sabi, you’ll find her pieces often littered with subtle imperfections on purpose. It is these little things — apart from making every piece painstakingly at the wheel herself, that has led me to fall in love with Anumita’s work.
4. Smitten Bakery
That my gift recommendations invariably have to do with food has a genuine reason: food is universal, also food generates minimal waste. Good quality hand made products that are also local and regional in my opinion make for the most thoughtful gifts Mandakini Gupta of the Smitten Bakery is one such person who makes everything from scratch with the best produce in the market. Amazing as her baking is, she also enthralls you with stories of her cooking, travelling, and feeding the who’s who of Delhi. The most important part is that she makes only small batches of everything — so everything is as fresh as it can get. For Diwali she is making stuff only on order. Chocolates, snacking bars, flourless chocolate cakes, caramelized nuts, truffle logs — the options are as beautiful as they are delectable and already have everyone swooning.
Since Smitten doesn’t do delivery, it is best to place your order and pick up from the bakery — that way you can also have a few fresh treats and coffee.
My personal preference in aesthetics is very Indian. It is reflected in what I buy, or gift, or own. So when Rukmini’s feed attracted me I was a bit surprised. An expert in evoking beach house vibes, Rukmini’s cozy home, DIYs, energy, and creativity had had me since beginning. Hers is also one of the two decor blogs I follow. Earlier this year I heard that she had quit her flourishing copywriting career to pay attention to her own work. A few months ago I saw what came out of it. Rukmini’s bespoke range of table and serveware, totes and wallpapers, cups, mugs and accessories are all designed and created at home and are way better than many professional designer’s. Coffee cups with hand painted coffee beans, tea cups with heart warming phrases, and accessories remind you of vintage western magazines, her home meanwhile gives you home decor goals everyday. For Diwali I suggest you pick the freshly minted Frangipani candles. I am waiting for mine!