My Brother: Di! I have hung my stocking on the bedpost. Where is yours?
Me: Mine is on the handle of the bathroom door!
This was a conversation we had every Christmas. My brother and I. It was a ritual actually. And we always had it when mom was in the vicinity. We were young and quite stupid but we weren’t stupid enough to believe that Santa would manifest out of the clouds, come riding on his sleigh, slip down our chimney (something that our house didn’t even possess) and place delightful little things in our stockings. We knew it was mom who played Santa each year. We just knew it.
Every year we would jump out of our beds and grab our stockings which were always filled with gifts of our choice- chocolates, candies, Barbie dolls, G I Joe figures and what not. One Christmas morning we found that our stockings were empty. Crestfallen and a little miffed we went down to the kitchen and started nibbling on aaloo parathas. “What happened?”, asked mom. “Santa didn’t give us presents this year”, mumbled my brother, trying to keep his tears from rolling down. “Aww… When the gifts are very big he places them under the pillow. Just go and check”, said mom as she winked at us. No sooner did she say that than we ran towards our bedroom and hurled the pillows to the other end of the room. And there they were, two large boxes packed in red and golden wrapping paper.
Christmas eve was always spent decorating a giant pine tree which stood gloriously in our courtyard. Dad is extremely fond plants; actually his love for plants borders on insanity. Needless to say that a pine tree was procured promptly and placed in our courtyard when we asked for it. Its glistening leaves covered with twinkling lights, cotton-wool snow flakes and tiny match-box presents looked so enchanting that we couldn’t take our eyes off it.
My younger brother would dress up as Santa albeit a tiny and skinny one and distribute sweets in our colony. Grandpa would set up a small bonfire and we would spend the evening eating cake, sipping on piping hot tomato soup and playing dumb charades and antakshari.
We have stopped doing it now. Perhaps the entire exercise has become a tad too childish for our liking. Or may be we just don’t have the time. But Christmas still brings out the child in me. Yesterday when we stopped at the signal I saw a peddler selling Santa caps and I couldn’t stop myself from buying one. As we moved ahead the Christmas decorations on the shops and malls flashed by and the childhood memories came trickling back. The tune of “Rudolf, the red nosed rein-deer” started playing in the mind and I chuckled. I guess no matter how old you become, the charm of Christmas always remains.
The traffic is moving at a reasonably good pace and you are sitting in the bus, thanking God for the millionth time for the mercy he has bestowed upon you today- giving you the opportunity to sit on one of those cushiony little things. You look at a person standing in the aisle, sandwiched between two others, exchanging sweat, perfume and what not. The sight grosses you out and you squirm in disgust. The person turns towards you and kick starts a telepathic conversation. You know he is cursing you and you turn your gaze away.
The driver speeds up and before you know it the bus begins to sway past all the puny cars and autorickshas like a Batmobile. They seem like insignificant worms crawling on the road. You watch their owners drive them in fear. “Ha… You might own a shining Merc, pal. But no one can beat the King of the Road.” Gripped with a sense of complacency you sit back and relax.
Suddenly Batman decides to come to a halt when the traffic lights turn red and the bus, racing at a whooping 70km/hr stops in a matter of seconds. You are thrown forward; your head hits the seat in front of you. You suspect a minor crack in your skull and perhaps a broken spine as well but you beam from ear to ear. The sheer bliss of sitting comfortably on a seat is indemnifying.
Your eyes fall on the traffic around you. While the car drivers push their vehicles in any nook and corner they find empty a few bikers, probably the descendants of Einstein, think a little out of the box. They haul their bikes on the footpath, flash an impish grin at the car drivers and zoom away. “The pedestrians can go to hell”, you think, “It’s high time the humans learnt how to fly.”
The traffic light turns green and a deafening noise pervades the surrounding. The honking game begins. The rules are pretty simple. If the vehicle in front of you stays put for a few millisecond you honk and you honk so loud that the entire humanity turns deaf for a a moment or two. Fearing permanent damage, you cover your ears with your hands.
The bus lurches forward and halts at your stop. You get off in the hope of catching a breath of fresh air. But Batman decides to bid adieu by blowing a puff of hot, toxic gases straight into your face. “Didn’t I get a facial done yesterday?”, you think as you walk towards your office. “Well, they say that activated carbon is good for the skin. Why waste seventy bucks on a stupid Ponds facewash when one can get this carbon free of cost.”
You walk briskly towards your workstation. After all, your grumpy boss is waiting for you in his cubicle and the power point presentation is still battling its way towards completion. But you smile. “After braving the Bangalore traffic I can surely handle my boss”, you think.