Christmas is round the corner and prospects are that it will be rainy and windy, making shoppers grumpy. As it is the excitement of buying presents is long gone. No celebrities like Hugh Grant can be seen rubbing shoulders with common shoppers. Children in this TV era have stopped believing in Santa Claus, and knowing that the stockings will be filled by their parents, give them their lists in advance. Carols have been amended to be politically correct. It's bleak Christmas for High Street stores too.
They have regrettably concluded that this year, despite the marketing tactics and sales drives, which include heavy price cuts, the prospects of bargain hunters storming their premises is highly unlikely. The Woolworth chain which is popular the year round for bargain offers has already announced a sharp drop in its estimated profit for the current quarter. Most other retail stores are also unhappy, as they expect a similar fate.
Family reunions are dreaded. A survey revealed that 18 per cent of families, once all the members get together, will squabble over which TV programmes to watch, 24 per cent over a board game they play, and 14 per cent over who will do the washing up. One wag has said that for peace during Christmas one should go into solitary confinement. Another suggested that taking a leaf out of Oliver Cromwell's book, this nanny government should abolish the festivity altogether.
Many householders would agree. The deluge of promotional pamphlets and letters falling in heaps through mail openings in front doors every day is annoying to say the least. Bent down with the weight of the "sales literature," householders can be spotted huffing and heaving their way towards refuse bins. There is no raddi trade here to enable one make some quick money from discarded paper.
Prices are high despite 50 per cent plus discounts. Imagine a leather Alfred bag for £815 (Rs 70,000), a designer tie for over £75 and a shirt for £125! Only the Yuletide spirit of harmony and goodwill and optimism for good days in the New Year is helping people keep their chins up. Decorative lights are visible, not just all over in Oxford and Regent streets, but in every shopping area. Cards sales are brisk and Hamleys, the best toy store is seeing a rush of excited kids dragging their parents to buy sci-fi toys. Even girl children have reportedly diversified to I-pods and robots, and are cool to dolls.
He is suave, well-dressed, and with his clipped Oxonian accent allures all. But David Cameron, Tory leader, with an income of £170000 a year, found himself in the embarrassing position of being unable to find his ticket when he got down from an underground train. He was going to attend a concert at the Wembley Arena but at the exit barrier he kept searching for the ticket - costing a mere £3 - in the dozen odd pockets he had, what with overcoats et al, while the Underground staff waited. A flustered Cameron could not find the ticket though he assured the staff that he had bought one. In the Yuletide spirit presently prevailing, one staff member asked him to buy a second ticket and did not impose a £30 penalty. Cameron may have lost his ticket but not his sense of humour. When a Tube employee reportedly remarked that with his kind of salary Cameron could buy a second £3 ticket, he said in his line of work there was not much security.
Revenge of woman scorned:
One lady in Birmingham, however, cares not for the season of forgetting and forgiveness. She has spent £2500 on a billboard, all of 20 feet by 10 feet, advertising her husband's infidelity. The billboard at the crowded city centre has a message for her husband called Mark and her best friend Shelly who, the wife claims, lured away her husband. The wife, named Jane, justified it. "It's just my way of getting my own back at the bastard who I have devoted most of my adult life to, only to find out he is a piece of lying, cheating scum!"
The message is succint. "You (Mark and Shelley) are most despicable, deceitful people… I know what you did and I'm disgusted. I have changed the locks, Mark, burnt your clothes and emptied OUR joint account-- to pay for this poster." Terribly upsetting Christmas gift this. But if other cheated wives follow Jane, councils are going to get richer. We are told a lot of infidelity has been sweeping the little isle.
Asian Awards season:
Most NRIs who have, as the term goes, made it, covet a peerage and failing that, long to be declared "Asian of the Year". The honour has come to acquire great prestige. The idea was conceived by JS Sachar who has done yeoman service by bringing out an Asian Who's Who every year since 1987. These list Asians in this country and gives their family details and occupation. An excellent reference book.
This year the basmati-rice czar, Moni Varma, founder of the Veetee brand basmati rice and Rami Ranger, Founder-chairman of Sun Oil Ltd won the Asian of the Year and Asian Leadership in Europe Awards for 2006 respectively.
They embody the success stories of NRIs who came with very little but have broken glass ceilings to be counted as equals with the best in the country within four decades.
This was evident when at the Asian Awards function at Grosvenor House, Cherie Blair too was nominated as the Asian Charity of the Year Award.
Previous recipients of the Asian of the Year Award include Lord Swraj Paul, Lord Bhikhu Parekh, Cricketer-turned-politician of Pakistan Imran Khan, Sir Gulam K Noon, Founder of the Noon Products and Lord Navnit Dholakia.