Well jolly as we may be feeling coz of the season and the festival around the corner, the night curfew recently imposed due to the newest strain of our nemesis has not helped. Honestly speaking, I think the strain of the strain is just an excuse, it was anyways what the powers that be had planned, lest the midnight mass and carol singing induces all and sundry to forget what is to be a part of life for some time to come…our friendly neighbourhood – not Spiderman- but the virus!
But that doesn’t seem to dampen the spirits in our home. See first of all I am told that which is spiritual is what is related to the spirit and what we do to uplift our spirits definitely falls in the realms of spirituality. The doggedness with which my mother and I have pursued it in these last few months only tells me we have done our bit to ensure upliftment of body, mind and soul – though food for body and mind have had other unprecedented vocations we have engaged with single-minded focus.
In case you are thinking our spirited approach is all there is to this season, curfew or otherwise, you are mistaken. Well, in the house is one tween who has busied herself for almost a fortnight like Santa’s elves, decorating each nook and corner of walls, ceilings, exteriors and interiors, whatever it was she could lay her hands on, or let’s say, as far as her height and width took her. So out came all the craft accessories, all the papers, streamers, and what have you. Mind you, no money to be spent in ensuring the arrival of the season and celebrations are the best ever.
Until last year, I remember being enthusiastically involved in assembling (and may be sometimes buying) the Christmas tree besides organizing a little party for some close friends of the little one. It seems from the time she started understanding the importance of celebrations, which happens early for us humans, we have had a tree, gifts and some form of a party, at home or otherwise. But this year, there was not to be the party- tree yes, gifts maybe- if we planned well in time for ordering (a.k.a mailing Santa) for what it was we were looking for.
But here is a child who has single-handedly transformed the otherwise low-key plans into a full-fledged celebration of a lifetime- what with a feast, all made by the little hands with pies, madeleines, Christmas cookies, roasted chicken and what have you! And gifts… it seems those can also be handmade if one has the conviction- and when did we doubt that! So here we are all set to have our best Christmas ever! And all because there was one little elf who wouldn’t let anything get in the way of the joy one feels in the air- never mind aerially borne creatures or particles!
I recently had someone who was not too familiar with how India works with its festivals (and those of the West) ask me recently on what Christmas looked like for us? Lights, decorations, gifts, food, and prayers- came my reply- in a combination with some stressed more than others depending upon your religious and gastronomic inclinations, was my way of explaining to him what the festival meant for us in India.
Commercial or otherwise, it is not too different from several other festivals that we celebrate in India. Given the multipilicity of our culture and an undying spirit to keep ourselves happy irrespective of what fate throws our way has been the philosophy our of nation’s residents. In fact, the more of a “have-not” you are, the higher the likelihood of the spirit in you. One exemplary way of the same demonstrated by the street children who selling their wares for the festival, happily don them, of course to give you a live display of their wares while somewhere absorbing the pleasure of the accessory they would have worn to a party that never will.
As a much younger child myself (yes, the child remains alive), I now reminisce how it was to be celebrating Christmas in small town India. The shops displayed the spirit with all the glitter and pomp, while we happily walked past/ in them absorbing the spirit of the season. A lone fern in the garden would be my make-do of what now becomes an imported Christmas tree –to be adorned with all embellishments, China has so diligently sent our way. [Of course, I am yet to find a good answer to the tween’s question on what it would take for a real pine tree to survive in the pleasant climes of Mumbai!] Added to this perhaps even a friend, who by virtue of her religious beliefs would invite us over to join in the festivities, including a feast which seemed so unique in its spread for someone brought up on a staple home-made diet that a typical Punjabi household relished.
Gifting wasn’t what it is made out to be today, and perhaps neither was the joy of giving. They say the human body has a particular hormone (and we all know how important it is for balancing all of them aptly) which does get influenced by the joy one derives from gifting someone. Perhaps, beyond retail therapy, which we all have indulged in so often, lies the realm of what one does with the purchases – consuming is never as satisfying as giving them away.
It is what I have experienced every time I have found cute little artefacts in countries visited, too many to fit in my humble abode, but never enough to give away to people who may not have had the time and opportunity to indulge in the purchases themselves. Its perhaps why I am such an avid shopper of articles which I find little use of, it’s the hormonal drive I get with the joy of wrapping, sharing, and gratitude that I am gifted with every time I present!
Yes, irrespective of what the year has offered us or the next keeps in store for us, the ‘present’ continues to remain our greatest gift, one to be realised, one to be relished.
Truly, the spirit within is all that it takes to transform what’s outside- indefatigable as the human spirit is, it’s the one that sees over us that ensures we always have the best come our way. After all, the joy of giving is not only for the human realms!