I know, I know, being a Hindu and all that, Christmas should not mean that much to me. But what can I say? It does. It always has.
Not in any religious sense, of course, even though I went to a convent school where I was educated by Catholic nuns. But as a time of celebration, a time for family and friends to come together, a time to show generosity to one another, a time to embrace the world, the day makes perfect sense to me.
Which is why, ever since I was a child, I have always embraced Christmas. It helped that the city I grew up in, Calcutta, lit up like a bride in the run-up to Christmas, and it was hard not to be infected with the spirit of the festival. And even though we never had a tree at home or even a tradition of Christmas presents, we still marked the day in our own way.
Sometimes it was a friends-and-family picnic in Botanical Gardens. At other times, it was a visit to the zoo. And sometimes it was just a lunch with friends at their home. But no matter where we celebrated, the day always involved lots of food, fun and festivity. And yes, since you ask, we did wear red Santa hats to get into the spirit.
Perhaps that explains why, even decades later, I take a particular delight in the advent of Christmas. It helps that my Christian friends are kind enough to invite me to their parties. And that mince pies, rum cake and eggnog go down a treat this time of the year.
This time around, for some reason, I suddenly felt the need to have a Christmas tree of my own. And once it was installed, sparkling away in a corner of the living room, I began imagining what presents I could put under it for members of my family. And that, inevitably, led to thoughts of what I would like for Christmas.
Well, since you ask, this is what I would like under my glittering fir tree this Christmas.
1. A time machine: That way I could travel back in time and undo all the horrific stuff that happened this year. First stop would be Syria, where countless children have been murdered in their beds by bombs that rain down every day in Aleppo. Next would be the UK, where the Brexit vote seems to have sparked off a fresh wave of racism. And then, there would be the USA, which lost its collective mind and elected Donald Trump (the putative Groper-in-Chief) as its President. (Though perhaps we shouldn’t be too harsh on those Americans; Hillary Clinton is ahead by nearly three million popular votes as I write this.)
2. A load of empathy: So that I could share it with all those who seem to have squandered their own stash, judging by their complete indifference to the plight of those less fortunate. Never has this lack been more striking than after the government’s demonetisation announcement. It doesn’t matter how in-your-face the suffering of poorer people is; it makes no difference how many people die queuing up for hours to withdraw a few thousand rupees; it is of no consequence how many jobs have been swallowed up by the monster of demonetisation. No, it’s just a minor inconvenience. And in any case, aren’t these people used to queuing up for stuff? What’s the harm if they do so for their own money? As I said, empathy. Loads of it, so that there’s enough to go around.
3. An Internet connection that actually works: And by that, I mean a connection that runs at the speed at which it is actually supposed to, instead of slowing down inexplicably every time I am trying to watch a Netflix show late at night. A connection that doesn’t disappear when I am in the middle of downloading a movie, so that I have to start all over again when it reappears – only to see it disappear yet again before the download is complete. And yes, for a 4G connection that isn’t actually a 3G connection in disguise.
4. A brand new metabolic system: Am afraid the one I have currently has sadly been run to the ground. In fact, there are some days when it is barely functional. So much so that I seem to gain 10 pounds just by driving past a bakery. As to what happens when I actually eat the chocolate croissant; well, let’s not go there. So I could really use a brand new system, or even a system reboot, to kick-start my way to good health (and minimal cholesterol).
5. A new liver: This one is showing signs of wear and tear after a lifetime of eating and drinking a bit too well. Actually, if I am asking for body parts, here are a few more that could do with a replacement: my dodgy back, which has never been the same since I took a spill down the stairs more than a decade ago; my wonky knees that twitch every time I climb up a flight of steps; and of course, my neck, which no amount of anti-ageing moisturiser can restore to creaseless glory.
I’m not greedy or unreasonable, so I am not holding out for all of these gifts this year. But even two out of five would be marvellous. I do hope Santa is listening…
From HT Brunch, December 25, 2016
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch