A CHILDHOOD CHRISTMAS
“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”
― Bob Hope
We practiced Sikhism at home and went to a Christian school. At that time schools run by Christian missionaries were considered to be the best as they imparted education in English and it was a matter of pride if your child got admission in a ‘Convent’ school, as they were called.
Here we imbibed all the Christian ethics as we understood them. On the top floor of the school was the chapel which was the quietest and the most peaceful part of the premises. It did not need a sign that said “Keep Quiet”. The all pervading calmness was indication enough that this was a silent zone and to be visited only if one could maintain that ethic.
Christmas was another aspect which we embraced whole-heartedly. What did Christmas mean to us? The birthday of Jesus Christ. Too young to understand the theology behind this event which changed the way the world looks at religion today, the religion that is the most well-documented one in the world, we knew that Christmas meant a Christmas party. A hay bed with a baby inside and the animals gathered around it while a poor but happy looking couple knelt in front of the crib their handed folded as if in prayer? What are they begging for? Is the baby crying and they are begging it to stop? They looked poor enough, to not be able to afford milk for the baby. What are these 3 richly dressed, bearded men doing at one corner? Have they brought the milk for the baby? These questions assailed the young innocent mind oblivious of the story of the birth of the Son of God.
But a party is a reason to enjoy and I remember one such party. When the older boys and girls of the housing society, Inspired by this party in school, announced a Christmas party, we were happy to participate. A birthday party where you did not have to take a gift for the birthday boy but you would still get a return gift? There would be games and music and all types of party food. As the time of the party neared, my siblings and I dressed in our best party clothes, reached the venue. Oh no. We had forgotten to bring the pass. This party was open only to those who had paid the entry fees and had received a pass in return.
Our mother had forgotten to mention this and we could not blame her because in the hurry to be the first at the party we had not informed her that we were leaving. Fortunately our mum anticipating such a turn of events reached there just then with the pass. Oh bliss, we were in. The big ball of iridescent light that revolved throwing colorful shadows on the faces of the dancers, the music that made even the most tone deaf person want to dance, the biting cold air on the society terrace and the organizers’ kitchen-maid serving cool orange cola in tiny plastic cups was the ultimate party place for an innocent, unsophisticated eight year old.
The return gift was a round, canary-yellow tiffin box which Mum used, later, to store raw tamarind in.