So my favourite time of the year is here… there’s something about Christmas being around the corner that leaves me smiling and ridiculously happy, all the time. I harbour the feeling of crossing over into another world, where there could possibly be snow falling outside the frosted-up windows, chestnuts roasting over an open fire or mistletoes hanging on doors.
Even though the festival isn’t celebrated in a huge way in good ol Bombay, I start looking out for sneaky little strings of lights and stars adorning homes, big stores beginning to put up their Christmas displays (spotted some amazing ones on Linking Road) and go ga-ga over Christmas trees in malls . Marzipan, plum cake, candy canes and little leaves of holly begin to make their debuts on the shelves of bakeries as well and leave me drooling.
So what is it about the festival that makes enthu cutlets like me rejoice when X-mas is on its way?? Having studied in a convent, the birth of Jesus Christ holds a dear place in my heart (I’m sure my peers agree!). So many memories… the school chapel and hallways decked with hollies and stockings, the fights over winning the prize for best decorated class, the excitement to get gifts from Santa (well… our Santa looked as if he was suffering from anorexia, but we hardly cared). How can I forget yearly visits to the only famous department store in Mumbai, the only store in my memory that celebrated Christmas with so much fervour back then… my uncle was the store manager and hence we kids were given special treatment… we did not wait in the queue to sit in Santa Clause’s lap (this one was fair, chubby and absolutely adorable) and get a bagful of goodies that kept me happy for at least a month after.
While this was one aspect of the festival that we students enjoyed, there was another side of it that I truly cherished. During this time of the year we gathered our old clothes and toys for the kids at the local orphange and literally forced (read beg!!!) the miser relatives and neighbours (Uncle please sirf 10 rupees de do na!) to buy sweets and chocolates for the children at the orphanage.
I also remember making greeting cards that I sold off on the road, in school, in the colony so that I could buy a gift for at least one needy child. Yes… Christmas then meant so much more than just beautiful food, clothes and decorations. It was about spreading happiness and cheer and about kindness and the joy of giving. It did not matter whether I was a Catholic or Muslim or Parsi, whether I resided at Peddar Road or Parel. All that mattered was the spirit in which we as children were taught to truly celebrate a festival.
As the years have passed by, the meaning and essence of this festival has changed and so have the attitude of the youth (even me). I have realised that the best way to observe, understand and enjoy the opinions and attitudes of people, especially the young generation is to go to malls or restaurants. The most hilarious, mind-boggling and serious of conversations are overheard here and make for some great entertainment. I’m sure you’re wondering why am I mentioning this. Well… like I was saying, before any festival, the mall is one place that gets decked up in a spirit of it and especially at X-mas time, there are some beautiful displays…
Recently I headed to the mall to soak up on some Christmas fever and landed into a toy departmental store (yes… toys are fun and age is just a number!!!). There I saw a mom with her teenage son and little daughter… they were having some kind of a heated discussion and I couldn’t help but be a bit curious… the mom had forced the son to come along to the store to help her buy a few presents for the little girl and her friends for Christmas. He was extremely upset and embarrassed. “Mom”, he went on, “You’ve got to be kidding me. You can’t expect me to be interested in this toy store and your stupid parties. My college buddy is having a cool pool party. There’s going to be funky music, good food and drinks and Im gonna have a blast. I don’t want to help with these silly traditions when I know Santa does not even exist.” The mom was very upset. But what was most wonderful was the little girl’s reaction. She told her brother that she believed that Santa was real, that he looked after all the little children and brought them gifts for being good. She had learnt in school that this is the time to spread happiness and help the less fortunate and Santa Clause, the elves and all parents worked very hard to fulfil their wishes. And that was why he was going to get a new phone that he’d wanted. So he better be good! The look on the brother’s face was priceless!
Her innocence, her thinking brought a smile to my face.
With changing times the gen-next like to go for dance parties where the only thing Christmassy is probably the Santa hats on their head posing for pictures for new profile pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. On the other hand, kiddy parties are held in every house, society or other venues with payable cover charges which include food, a dj/mc and a chiselled version of a struggling actor in the form of our dearest Santa Claus.
Yes, times have changed… everything is a bit louder, fancier and crowded…Bigger trees, sparkly lights…more food, more booze, more decorations that let’s be honest adds that extra zing to the festivities but our childhood celebrations were a class apart. And at moments when you start being nostalgic or sad about the childhood Christmas celebrations, someone like that little girl makes you happy.
Mumbai is full of kinds of people. Some are party-goers, some like solitude, some don’t care and some are innocent and carefree. But there’s no doubt that we all know how to celebrate, enjoy, share and be merry despite what’s happening around. A small smile on your face, a happy Christmas memory being refreshed, a little motivation to be kind… that’s All I Want for Christmas!
A voracious reader and lover of books (secretly harbouring a dream to own a library), I work as a Senior Features Writer with a leading media house in the country. A Bombay-ite through and through, I love eating road-side food, spending hours staring at sea, get deliriously happy about the rains, crib about the traffic and the pollution and get high on the zest for life and the fighting spirit which the city has. Writing is my passion as well as my profession and I hope to engage, involve, enlighten and inspire with my words.