Wondering who’s the guy behind the fluffy beards and padded tummies? We meet some of Mumbai’s Santas
‘One kid said he wanted his mum’
This is Ajinkya’s second time playing Santa Claus at the Four Seasons Hotel, Worli. “I work in the banquets department, so I volunteered to do this. It’s not every day that you get a chance to make time for things that matter,” he says. Last year, the hotel hosted a party for kids from a local NGO, where they sang, danced and received gifts. Ajinkya says, “One kid came to me and said, ‘I want my mommy.’ It was heartbreaking. I spent a lot of time with him and made sure he left with a happy memory.”
‘It makes up for all the odd jobs I do all year’
Rajesh, who has been donning the red-and-whites for the last three years at Tata Housing’s White Santa event, started his career with a street theatre company. “It wasn’t enough to sustain me, so I started playing characters at malls and amusement parks. Playing Santa is different, because there’s more interaction. Plus, the simple joy of interacting with the children makes up for all the odd jobs I do,” he says. A favourite memory is one of a three-year-old boy who came to the mall with his parents. “When his parents started giving his old things away, he started howling. I called him and tried to console him, but it didn’t help,” recalls Rajesh. “After an hour, I saw him return, dragging his bag of things and leaving it near me. It felt special.”
Adam prefers not to share his last name, but has interesting stories to tell. "I returned to Mumbai this year after attending college in California. In my fraternity there, we’d do community service and fundraisers. One year, we decided to combine both. We dressed up as Santa and went around town collecting donations. We collected over $2,000," he says. Adam then took the idea to his brother, Aalok, and the two set up a service where Adam, dressed as Santa, visits homes, offices and parties. His favourite Santa experience remains one from his college days, when he and his friends got together for dinner after being out in costume all day. "We were five Santas, squeezed into a tiny booth at a restaurant. One of us accidentally spilled his drink on another guy who smacked his head in retaliation. Soon enough, we were five Santas beating the hell out of each other," recalls Adam.