Santa was at the Hindustan Times, Mohali, office this Christmas. No, he didn’t land his sleigh on our roof straight from North Pole, though the office is on the flight path. Neither did he roll down unseen from the chimney because there couldn’t be a bigger turn off than the grimy exhaust in the office canteen. Yet the HT office was teeming with secret Santas thanks to the initiative of two angels (junior colleagues) who gave us the chance to live our childhood fantasy and receive a gift on Christmas, straight from our secret Santa.
Two days before C-Day, each colleague was asked to pick a slip with the name of another colleague and keep it secret. Each Santa was given a minimum budget of Rs 100 to buy a gift for the ‘chosen one’. The larger-hearted Santas shot way over the budget, while other pocket-friendly ones chose to stick to the Rs 85-Rs 90 range. One precise Santa left a ‘shagan lifafa’ (auspicious packet) of Rs 101.
Some forgetful colleagues had to be reminded on Christmas morning that they were playing Santa, while other fussy ones had to be given gifting ideas and one even had to be sent back from work to buy his gift. One Santa chose to outsource the gift-buying to another Santa reporting late for duty. He was the only Santa who didn’t know what he had gifted!
As Christmas evening arrived, excitement and suspense was in the air. The boss, who played Santa to a pretty reporter, by chance, not choice, was called in to pick his gift first from the cardboard carton kept in the library. He was followed by a stream of eager-beaver colleagues who insisted he opened his gift in front of everyone. The boss sheepishly did so and found a pair of warm socks. “For a change, sir will get to pull up his own socks now,” whispered a colleague into his trusted lieutenant’s ear.
Everyone grinned ear to ear as the name of one chosen one after another was called out and gift after gift was handed over to be unwrapped. Two pairs of dangling earrings, a jewellery box, second-hand books, Parker to Pilot pens, a soup bowl, a sari cover, a coffee mug, a deodorant, two shaving creams (one past the expiry date), an after-shave lotion, two mufflers, a thought calendar, a casserole, chocolates, a packet of toffees, the ‘shagan lifafa’ and the pair of socks were among the Santa secrets revealed.
The post-Christmas buzz these days in office is who was whose secret Santa. Some colleagues have discovered their rightful Santa, others are still looking for him/her and certain Santas are praying they’ll never be found out. The one who gifted the pair of socks to the boss is one of them. There have been some cases of mistaken identity, too, with grateful colleagues thanking the wrong Santa and the right benefactor nursing a slighted ego. But all in all, this time the festive cheer continues to hang over HT house. Yes, Santa did come to our office on Christmas evening.
The writer is news editor with Hindustan Times