Dear Santa Claus,
It’s been a long time since I wrote to you. Thirty years, is it? I know you receive millions of letters every year and you remember each and every one. Well Santa, I am too grown-up now to ask you for iPods or DVDs or posters of Zac Efron (hey, Santa have you seen Zac in High School Musical?), so I thought of asking you to come to Calcutta on your sleigh this Christmas. If it’s a problem getting around, we could try the Metro or a tram instead. As a boy who has grown up in Bengal, may I ask you to bring the following gifts in your already overweight bag?
Here is the list.
Christmas Gift 1: A long-life pill for Mr Nahoum, the Jewish baker in New Market who makes the best Christmas cakes in the country. He is already over 70, but needs to live for another 50 years. In that time, Santa, I am sure he can teach the bakers in Connaught Place, Colaba and the rest of India how to make a real Christmas cake.
Christmas Gift 2: A fresh coat of paint and brighter lights for the centre of New Market. This is where they sell Christmas decorations. My ma would go to Mr Chen’s shop. Now, I am told, she gets the fake mistletoe and holly leaves from GK I in Delhi. The centre of New Market, Calcutta (there is no New Market if it is Kolkata!) has a charm and history to it; maybe you could drop by with your can of paint. But keep your visit under wraps, because if the press gets to know, the mayor will turn up for the photo-op.
Christmas Gift 3: A new drum kit for my old friend Nondon Bagchi. Let me jog your memory, Santa. When you visited Calcutta in the early 1970s, Nondon was a young drummer in a group called the ‘Cavaliers’. They did a few festive gigs at many clubs but never played on hallowed Park Street. Story has it that Nondon’s been using the same drum kit for the last 30 years. He’s busy these days: leading his band ‘Hip Pocket’ (hurrah! on Park Street) and doubling as the city’s best-known foodie.
Christmas Gift 4: A second-hand Casio calculator for Sourav Ganguly. I must clarify, Santa, why it’s important you don’t get him a new one. Like all our Indian cricketing divas, Dada is supremely superstitious and never goes out to bat with anything new. The not-so-new calculator will be used by him throughout 2008 to revisit his statistical exploits of 2007.
Christmas Gift 5: A truckload of good sense for the West Bengal Culture/Home/Chief Minister. I know if you strictly follow the words of the Christmas carol, you may not want to bring him any gift at all (“Santa knows whether you’ve been bad or good; so be good for goodness sake...”). Yes Santa, he has been bad this year. Very bad. But you better not take my word for it, lest they frame you for bias. Ask your journalist friends, or the Governor or the men in black robes or the filmmakers or theatre people or the school children of the city. They’ll tell you. Merry Christmas.
(Derek O’Brien is a noted quizmaster)