In Diwali and Holi, we had this practice of going to the neighbours with a plate of homemade savoury dishes- mostly desserts. In Christmas, we were treated with somewhat Hindu-fied Christian custom where the family would send us homemade donuts and namkeens and we would accept them in the same spirit we accept ‘prasad’. This seems like a highly secular and morally uplifting event now but, those days, it was just something we did. So, aside from wondering why Hindus didn’t decorate a Christmas tree and why do some alphabet charts spell Christmas with an ‘X’, I never really had any deep profound thoughts about secularism.
Santa Clause was never real for me though. I don’t know what was it about the way adults talking about him, but he always seemed nothing more than a cartoon character. So, I never really looked forward to meeting Santa. It was also a very small nondescript town where I grew up so, I never went to any malls and sat on Indian malnourished Santas’ laps. Once I came of age and visited bigger cities and amusement parks, people dressed up as animated characters spooked me instead of amusing me. My brain had solidified the concepts of physics by then and I had no reason to believe that a person in a bloated costume can mean well.
About those donuts though- they were delish! They were glazed with sugar and yes, there was chocolate cake too. I don’t know what it was but, now I go to cafes, malls, restaurants but never have I found a taste that matches the taste of cake baked at home and donuts that are served with love. The didi who used to prepare the cake actually wasn’t an expert at baking so, the cake used to come out slightly charred. It was just the right amount of bitter chocolate with a smoky feel and inner layers of sweetness and wholesome goodness. There were other kinds of cake too but, I loved that burnt chocolate cake dipped in chocolate syrup.
And the donuts- oh the donuts! Well, these shops here in the city make ’em fluffy but, those ones were crispy on the outside and slightly fluffy inside (Were they burnt too? Who cares?) and I waited for those donuts from November.
Then there was one more Christian family which used to hold a party every Christmas. I used to go with my parents and there used to be three horse-sized dogs at their gates. Bruno was terrifying, he used to reach my shoulders with his feet and look at me in the eyes and then sniff my chin.
Then there was tuktuk (they renamed him blackie! WHY!?). He was shaped like a hotdog and loved slipping between my feet. Tuktuk was a cutie.
Then there was one more. I also remember that this family greeted us with pecks on our cheeks. I hated the practice then but, looking back at it now… I can imagine that it used to be a sassy Christmas party.
Cheers to winters, cheers to kindness of neighbours and cheers to pecks on cheeks! Cold winter cheeks.
Here is wishing you all a very happy new year. May 2016 bring you lots of good things.