‘The Gift of the Magi’ is one of the most popular short stories by O Henry. This was also one of the first few stories I heard from a journalist uncle of mine that have remained etched in my mind’s eye (my uncle is a great story-teller). This story has been rehashed so many times, the plot used with slight modifications in so many movies and plays..but nothing ever can come close to the slight twist I felt when I heard the original first.

The story is about Jim and Della, a newly wed couple in a modest flat. They each have one prized possession, Della’s lovely long hair and Jim’s gold watch. It is christmas time and they want to buy a gift for each other but do not have much money. So Della sells her hair and buys a chain for Jim’s watch. Jim comes home and has an inscrutable expression on his face when he finds Della without her glorious mane. He would have sold his watch to buy combs for her! Though their gifts are completely useless to each other, the happiness they get out of it is beyond measure. The extent to which these lovers would go to ensure each other’s happiness makes for a beautiful story.

The story ends with the author comparing these two to the Biblical Magi-

“The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the new-born King of the Jews in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the Magi.”

As I cleaned my bookshelf I unearthed a long forgotten but a well treasured gift from a once close friend – The entire collection of O Henry’s short stories! I have spent a good part of the mornings for the past few days relishing the stories..

Somehow it all tied up so neatly together – The story of a gift, the gift I received long ago which came back to give me many a joyous moments..

If that friend ever happens to read this then ‘noboborsher preeti o shubheccha …….’ !!

If you are interested to find out more about O Henry-