Friday, December 24, 2004

Of little brown bags

So it's Christmas again!

Can hardly miss the santa cap clad crowd all around. Everybody seems to be sporting some garment in red, green or white. Office has a colleague in santa cap distributing rum cake. Nobody minds, of course. Eating cake is more important.

The call centre kids can be seen outside their office, attired in sexy nothings, santa cap and slim cigarettes between their fingers. God knows when they work!

Half the world has already disappeared for their holidays. And the other half will try to imagine a wintry Christmas in sulty Bombay. The city is festively lit up and there are banners and hoardings, announcing exotic lunches and dinners, at prices that can feed all the orphans in the city.

A sight far removed from the little town where I grew. The land of blue mountains and green valleys. Where winters were freezing and foggy.

Yes, Christmas was always special. As a child. No, my family was not Christian. But it didn't matter. A convent school with Salesian Sisters from Italy, taught us the beauty of this season. Even though winter vacations would be on, the Sisters always welcomed anyone who braved the cold to go for Mass or to wish them.

Christmas was celebrated with my parent's friend's family. A Christian family. At some point in the day, bundled in woolens, we would land up at their house. Presents were exchanged amidst great ruckus. The kids would be excited with the Christmas tree. A real tree with twinkling lights, stockings, little presents beneath and a big star on top. Then all of us kids would troop to church for Mass, which strangely was sometime in the afternoon. (Didn't really matter as the whole day was chilly and sunless in winters.) Post Mass, the priests and nuns would give every child a brown paper bag, filled with hot stuffed rolls, donuts, sweets and chocolates, a little book or piece of stationery, and wish us all a very happy christmas.

Now, there were a lot of children, our friends, who were orphans. They stayed in the school hostel and attended school with us. Somehow we never realised then, that they didn't have parents at home. Maybe it was a good thing, because children can be cruel sometimes and we might have teased them about the lack of a family... or maybe we wouldn't have. But we loved them. And they were the reason we went for that afternoon Mass. Knowing they would be there, sharing the excitement over the brown paper bag, playing about for a bit and knowing the nuns loved us all. Equally.

Then it would be time to get back, before dark. Before the fog got denser and sights became hazier. Hugging them all goodbye, we would hold our paper bag tight and rush back home to anxious parents craning their necks in turn, to spot us in the narrow lane, between the trees. (There was one time when it got dark and we got lost, and the elders had to go looking for us.) The elders would be in a good mood and would try to make us sing, dance or play the piano. Whatever we did, we were cheered loudly. There would be a fire too, a bonfire or a mere fireplace, I don't remember clearly, but I remember a crackling fire that kept us warm and happy.

Then, the mega dinner would happen. But we kids would insist on eating through our brown paper bags. And parents let us without arguing much.

Much, much later, tired and sleepy, late in the night, we would be huddled home. Next morning, we added another beautiful Christmas memory to our lives.

Years later, I spent Christmas again in this little town, where my parents still live. I took home a college friend, from Bombay. But nothing was the same. The sun was up that day, though it was still freezing cold. We went to the riverside where we saw the sun set from atop the dyke. As we turned around, we saw the full moon rise from the other end. It was so magical. I couldn't take her for Mass but we did go for the customary celebration at the family friend's house. And we didn't land up excited, in the afternoon. We went for dinner, gave the gifts, ate and left.

Throughout the trip, I was always in a hurry. I could hardly help it. It was a short trip and I had promised my friend a lot of sightseeing and going around. And in that, I lost out on a memory, of a beautiful Christmas, celebrated with old friends and old friends' old parents.

Today, however hard I try, to recreate my childhood Christmas, I cannot. But I do make an effort. I dress up a real tree and put up little stockings and light candles. If we don't invite anyone or get invited, hubby dearest takes me out for dinner. Though I make it a point to go to places where they don't print an overpriced menu for Christmas. Somehow, the little hungry faces, that look up expectantly as we park outside a restaurant, make me guilty for having so much. For being able to choose where to eat and what to eat.

I fervently wish that everybody gets a meal this Christmas. Not a grand one but enough to drive hunger away. For this occasion at least, which is about giving and sharing. I want to feed a few myself. For selfish reasons, of course. The look of happiness on a once-hungry now-well-fed face can surpass no other. I love to experience that.

That I suppose, is going to be Christmas for us.

MERRY CHRISTMAS & GOD BLESS!!

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

a Very Merry Christmas to you too Anumita.

Peace and love

Pompy (found you finally :) )

12:33 PM  
Blogger Pallavi said...

hope you had a great christmas

10:05 AM  
Blogger anumita said...

Pompy: Good to hear from you. You had a good Christmas?

Pallavi: Yes, had a good Christmas but a bad Sunday after.

11:55 AM  
Blogger monk15ad said...

I think this is the most heart warming christmas tale I hae ever heard. You seem to be a very nice person... Thats just such a nice feeling..Keep it up!!

10:34 PM  
Blogger anumita said...

monk15ad: Thank you. I don't know if I am nice... but I guess I belong more to a time and place where happiness is measured by feelings and simple little things. Do leave your blog URL if you have one.

11:39 AM  
Blogger monk15ad said...

I just moved my blog from livejournal. I am not regular though. However here it is..
monk15ad.blogspot.com

8:44 PM  

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