My gallivanting around Chennai today included a mix of local and international. It is customary in India, and I assume in most Asian cultures, to never visit someone's home, be that a friend or family member, with empty hands. Some form of a gift is mandatory. It doesn't have to be expensive but it is the norm. Folks of my generation don't care much for it but being that most of my visiting was with my mom, I had to adhere to a few customs.