A couple of days ago, I was trying to convince a friend that Santa Claus did come jingling on his sledge on Christmas Eve, snuck in through a half-open window, filled a stocking hanging by the door with gifts galore, and left our children with a smile of anticipation in their beds. My friend doesn’t believe in fairy tales… I do.
During a random Google search, I had stumbled across an article about Jaya Bachchan bringing Christmas home last year with a tree, special cooking and gifts for every guest. The quietly organised party, the family’s first, had triggered off a deluge of memories for her 68-year-old husband. On his blog, Amitabh Bachchan had recalled singing carols in the cold of North India, coffee breaks in between to keep everyone warm and awake, midnight mass, visits to the neighbours, cake and pastry, and an exchange of presents.
His words had me flashing back to my early growing up years in the picturesque capital of Meghalaya. My first ‘big’ school, Loreto Convent in Shillong, was perched on a high hill. En route, we passed a church where my friends and I often paused during summer to finish up last minute homework, during monsoons to slip out of gumboots and slip into the regulation black shoes that had to be polished to perfection, and on days when things were going completely out of control, to offer a prayer that all would be well soon.
Mother Mary and her boy child were almost family and every year, as Jesus’s birthday drew near, like Mr Bachchan, I too would go carol singing with the neighbourhood kids and a masquerading Santa. ‘Jingle bells…’ turned into ‘Silent night, holy night…’ during midnight mass, followed by a joyous ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year…’ as plum cakes were passed around.
The Christmas cheer went out of my life when I came down to the plains of Kolkata and then migrated to Mumbai. As I chased after Bollywood dreams, Wham’s Last Christmas… became Anu Malik’s Dil Nera Churaiya Kyun… from the Aamir Khan-Manisha Koirala starrer Akele Hum Akele Tum (1995). Midnight mass was a long-forgotten memory and Christmas treats metamorphosed into blockbuster movies.
Over the last decade, December 25 has become a red-letter day in the Bollywood calendar, as coveted a release date as Eid or Diwali. In 2003, Munnabhai, in pursuit of an MBBS degree, turned into a modern-day gangster Santa, giving ‘jadoo ki jhappis’ all around.
Christmas in 2007, 2008 and 2009 belonged to the versatile Aamir Khan. His Taare Zameen Par made me sigh, Ghajini made me cry and 3 Idiots made me smile. Aamir handed over the baton last year to Khiladi (Akshay) Kumar, or rather Katrina Kaif, whose Tees Maar Khan chartbuster, Sheila Ki Jawani…’ drove Santa Claus Is Coming To Town…’ of our minds.
From Sexy Sheila to deadly Don, once again this year, Christmas is something alien. Like so many others, Shah Rukh Khan’s Mission Invincible will draw me to the theatres with my 13-year-old daughter today. I’ll watch Don try to destroy the world for his sadist pleasure and wonder, “Is this what Santa has turned into?”
Across the seven seas, another iconic star, Johnny Depp, has teamed up with a band that goes by the name Babybird, to record a new-age carol, ‘Jesus stag night club…’ and portrays Jesus as a deviant who zooms around in stolen cars, gets his kicks at lap-dancing clubs and is sozzled to the gills. The believers have doomed the Pirate to the fires of hell on Judgement Day. I wonder what they’ll prophesise for our Don?
On my part, I’ve renewed the tradition of a tree done up with stars, bells and plastic holly, carol singing — even if it’s a CD playing the once much-loved seasonal songs, and stockings filled with little this-and-that for my kiddo to wake up to on Christmas Day. My soon-to-be-a-teenager daughter tells me there are no gift-bearing Santas, and it’s all hogwash. I tell her of course there are. I have to hold fast to this fairy tale to keep me sane in a world suddenly gone insane!