Websites and portals don’t stop with providing a range of gifting options. They even make buying and delivery simple. Geeta Padmanabhan logs on

Years ago, I was present at a Teachers' Day function that delivered a startling lesson to both the management and the teaching staff. When the gifts were unwrapped and the teachers found stainless steel serving dishes, a section of them exploded: “Does this mean we do more cooking and have less time for reading, researching and updating? Is it a reminder that our primary place is the kitchen?” They said they preferred a field trip.

If accepting gifts is tough, choosing is much more so. You set aside cash, time and effort to meet a gifting need, and often end up feeling uneasy that it may not be the right one. How do I know it won't be confined to a shelf-back or worse, re-cycled? The joy of choosing for someone you love doesn't entirely take away the stress of finding the “perfect” gift, does it?

Well, you can be pragmatic and ask upfront (and face the consequences!). “What would you like for Diwali?” shouted Meena on Skype, and bang came the seven-year-old's reply, “One million jelabis, grandma, mail them on FedEx!” A government official once told those who routinely brought sweets to his door, “Please send dry fruits. Made sweets don't last.” If you are alert to hints dropped before birthdays and anniversaries, you can guess, and hope you guessed right. You could also buy something difficult to resist — diamonds for a woman, GrandTheftAuto-V for a man, or an all-paid-for holiday for the elderly.

We now leap to Google/Amazon/BBC/websites for ideas. Thousands of pages greet us with gift-lists: Want the perfect gift for a gadget addict? Is he/she an ethnic-goods supporter? Chic jewellery craver? Purse/Wallet collector? Book lover? Sugar-free sweets consumer? Sports nut? Jet-setter? Go no further. Pick from the virtual list and order online. BBC has put out “gifts for the foodie-traveller”, five gifts for the luxury traveller,” “great gifts for grandma” — these lists go quite far.

Facebookers, be reminded: you can get together on your FB walls and buy one another gifts. Wrapp, an app that runs on smartphones/tablets/computers, lets FB friends buy gift cards from participating retailers individually or by teaming up, store them in mobiles and redeem them either online or at physical stores. “E-commerce platforms are becoming inherently more social with the inclusion of comments, recommendations and purchase history from each person's social graph,” reported Reuters quoting an industry player. On the Starbucks site, for instance, you can click on their registered Facebook account to view upcoming birthdays of FB friends, send them e-gifts directly, and share the news on your FB wall. CashStar, SocialGift, Groupcard Apps and DropGifts are all “early birds” in the sector.

Cashkaro, the cashback site with a list of 500+ retailers, is offering extra cashback on every purchase during the 3-day GOSF festival (December 11-13), says its PRO. If you shop at say, Myntra through Cashkaro and stack up a bill of Rs. 400, Cashkaro gives you a cashback of Rs. 220 within 72 hours of purchase, on top of the discount Myntra offers, she adds. If you have a baby gifts list, Healthkart and BabyOye coupon giveaways may be an option.

Still stuck and in a hurry? Say it with flowers. If you worry you could go wrong, don't. Florists in roadside kiosks are now clued in on choosing the right flowers for the right person, right occasion. “But that is a western concept,” protested Priya who runs an NGO whose well-wishers get gentle brickbats when they put their money on bouquets. “They don't appeal to me, flowers don't always signify happy times, they remind me of tragic events; I connect them to paying last respects.” Gifting flowers is not in sync with our culture, and there are a million other ways to show your love, she feels. “Have you thought of being there with that person, giving them a warm hug?”

Would you like to make contributions to charities in the name of people for whom the gifts are meant? “Lots of people do that,” said Sankarraman of Amar Seva Sangam, Ayikudi. “They send cash on their kids' birthdays; we give children here a special meal and get them to draw thank-you cards. Makes everyone happy.”

A living gift is sure to make you stand out. Check out Living Gifts for elegantly gift-wrapped (but pricey) flowering/non-flowering plants, Feng Shui arrangements and bonsais. Parampara might help you get Tulsi saplings since they make it their business to propagate this medicinal plant. You could follow this suggestion from a tribal in Chattisgarh: “Grow pots of herbal plants, give each a name, talk to them kindly, bless them and give them away as gifts.” My favourite? What Madras Dyslexia Association gave the panellists at their workshop: beautiful baskets of fresh fruit.