Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together – Vincent Van Gogh

Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

Breaking a Leg in 2011

Mom, myself & Nagaraj with our Christmas tree

End of year are exciting times. I was to be heading home after a strenuous eight months in Bangalore. Having changed my job but a few months earlier, adjusting to my new job and workplace had been hectic. Nothing like an holiday in home sweet home Goa, take in all the awesome food and attention before heading back to work for another round on the grind.

Goa has a lot of hoopla and hype around it, especially during Christmas and New Year, especially for all its beaches, drugs, alcohol, nightlife and women. To us Goans, Goa is just home. It’s the cool breeze one can enjoy sitting on ones veranda, greeting familiar faces as they pass by, eating loads of fresh fish, sharing meals with family, catching up with friends, all in a very relaxed and congenial environment.

The excitement of heading home had led me to shop extensively and I could not wait to pack my bags, until a week before I missed a step and what I fervently prayed was a sprain turned out to be a fracture. A Jones fracture to be precise.

A cast, and five weeks of rest is what the orthopedic doled out nonchalantly. “W-H-A-T”, I shouted, “five weeks, you must be joking”. I live a rather hectic life, waking up at 6.00 a.m. cooking my meals, travelling to office, beginning work ahead of time,  travelling back, cleaning, washing… I hate sitting around in one place unless I’m working on my computer. My mind is always abuzz and I’m doing stuff, now I have to sit in one place with my right leg alleviated, oh man that is simply going to kill me, I thought. The first week I went about like a wounded animal. Frustrated, aggressive, irritable, snapping at those around when I wasn’t engaging in self pity…. It was terrible.

Finally, I decided I needed a perspective change and convinced myself to look at the brighter side of things. This was an opportunity to slow down, sit and smell the coffee. I could now jam on the brakes and experience what it means to be dependent on others, how to seek assistance, how to appreciate assistance, relearn the importance of interdependence. I re-acknowledged the tons of love, concern and caring that makes the world go round, from my dear neighbor who brought over steaming bowls of sumptuous food, to another neighbor who accompanied me to the hospital, the auto and cab drivers, my concerned colleagues who kept calling and messaging to ensure I was comfortable, my family who kept my spirits up and positive and then catering to my every request when I reached Goa. Lowering myself a few notches, life came back from fast-forward to its normal pace, a bit leisurely … on the whole, it was nice.

For five weeks I could not travel and thus needed to work from home. For the last six years I had not spent more than a week at a time in Goa, the slow pace of life bored me. Now I spent a month there, and it seems like fun, work from a comfortable, caring home, enviable isn’t it. I had to thank my luck I had the most cooperative office and a family that felt it could be with me every step of my temporary disability.

My restricted movement actually came as a blessing in disguise, I was back to reading, something I love to do, write for my blog, something I had not done in a while. I got to spend loads of time with my nephew and nieces who were springing up but I didn’t have the time to watch them grow. I got time with my mom and sister; my friends and relatives who visited me. I got loads of time by the window, take in sights and sounds I previously had no time for.

My mom Virginia with her grand kids
My nephew David and niece Jamima at the BBQ

For a while now, I have been associated with the disability movement, now I know just a little bit, what it means to have a disability. The hardships that are bestowed upon the person without their asking.  The limitations a person with a disability experiences because their surroundings have been insensitively designed for able bodied people.

I nearly through my five weeks of hindered movement, wont kid you that I can’t wait to get my cast of, but the learning’s have been tremendous, almost worth the initial suffering that has since evaporated into lessons I could not have paid for even if I tried.

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Gifting at Christmas

Gifting at Christmas

shopper_dogIn many parts of America and Europe and probably some other places of the world, but definitely not India and Goa, gifting at Christmas is a big tradition. Browsing through the internet, I found that in the US at least, gifting at Christmas is a serious pre-occupation. Black Friday, Stampedes, taking loans for buying gifts are diner table discussions, on the other hand so is ‘Buy Nothing day’ and hand made gifts to cut down on holiday spending and combat the commercialization. Recently a study done by e-Bay found that 83 percent of the people they interviewed received unwanted gifts and 54 percent of these planned to sell their gifts online!. So much for all that shopping fever and stomping someone to death.

gift-boxWhen we were kids, it was hard to contain the excitement on the ‘Christmas Tree’ day. This was a little event held at the Saligao Institute, a club really, which held a Christmas tree for all its members. Parents would buy gifts and hand them over to the Institute and for a small fee; we would be handed over these gifts along with a small bag of sweets, some drinks and eats, by a hugely stuffed Santa,.

The event would begin outside, on the concrete tennis court, with games, that I never ever won. I was never one for games. And as the games came to an end, Santa would come, sometimes at a merry gallop, from somewhere on the other side of the building or as it once happened, on a bull-o-cart, ha-ha- hoing and throwing sweets, that would send the kids into a frenzied dive around his feet. Handing over prizes to the winners, we would then be trooped into the fairly large hall. And none could stray their eyes from the gifts of all shapes and sizes piled high on the table in the corner.

gift-boxesOne particular year, I remember it like it was yesterday, I was eyeing the largest gift at the very end of the high pile and wishing that gift were mine. That gave me a reason to embark on a dream, and slowly each child’s names was called and they scampered up to claim their box and the pile reduced until they reached this large box and guess what, my name was called out!! Man, it made my day. I nearly squealed in excitement. That was a wonderful gift on general knowledge, it was a quiz box. It had questions on one side and answers on the other. A little plastic yellow man with a pointer at his feet would be fitted into the question side and pointed to the question you wanted to ask and then removed and placed on the answer section, and the little yellow man, spun on the glass surface and pointed to the right answer on the sheet. There were sheets of questions on all kinds of topics, sports, history, geography. I was young then and my general knowledge poor, I don’t think I knew much of those answers, but looking back I think it set something ticking. My sister had got something similar, thought it would a little bulb that came on if the circuit was complete by the right answer to a question.

santa-clausThese educational gifts were always bought by my dad and we always hoped it was he who would buy the gifts. Mum was way too practical, managing a lower middle class family; she refused to ‘waste’ scarce money on gifts like these. If it was her buying Christmas gifts it was most likely to be stuff we could use, like handkerchiefs and socks and some things like that, which were for us a major disappointment. After all it was the only gift we received all year.

christmas-shoppers1Today, I do have the opportunity to see abundance and excess. I see parents giving kids loads of gifts, I see guys giving their girlfriends and girls giving their boyfriends loads of unwanted gifts and yet, I never see that spark, that so lit our eyes when we received a gift. Anything we were given was never too small, yet I knew friends my age, who looked at gifts and dismissed them because they were cheap. I think the only time a gift really thrills you is when it’s rare, like once a year, and when you’ve a child. When you can’t afford to buy yourself that much wanted something and really hope some mummy, daddy, or uncle, auntie Santa is out there reading your mind.

Not Bangalore this Christmas

Not Bangalore this Christmas

christmas-tree1Bangalore is not a city that celebrates any festival with that mad gusto that so characterizes festivals in the North of the country, particularly Delhi. I happened to be there for a short span of eight months, and Delhi sweeps you into a mood when it’s Holi, Diwali, Lori, Christmas, New Year etc. I remember shops putting out huge boxes of chocolates to be bought, the markets, festive with bunting that were strung across the roads, school kids coloring themselves and bursting crackers.

But then Delhi is a city with a history that runs into a few hundred years. There you have people and communities rooted in the city, very unlike in Bangalore. Here, everywhere you go you can see its newness. New malls and stores, bungalows being demolished and buildings going up, the city is growing and in the throes of reinventing itself constantly into a maturing place.

Having traveled a little around the various districts of Karnataka, sometimes I feel that Bangalore is so devoid of its mooring in Karnataka that this State should have another capital. Bangalore is more of a confluence for the three neighboring states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh. You can survive here with any language, unlike the North, there is no single language that binds Bangalore together. There is not even a single culture, thought its only a matter of time before it gets homogenized, and so I think Bangalore with IT as its claim to fame, is cosmopolitan enough, in a very Indian sort of way be the capital for the South of India, perhaps in an emergent way, to ‘developing India’.

To get back to the point about festivals, come a festival and Bangalore empties itself out. People from all States, crawl out from every nook and cranny and jam the tiny gateways out of the city. The trains, the buses, the cars, the two wheelers and probably the planes too are crowded, with people heading home, to where they belong. After two and a half years in Bangalore, I have found myself caught in these little jams more than a few times. Impatiently lying on the bare hard bunk of the bus waiting for it to rush me away to my where my heart is, 500 kilometers North West of India.

And when ever I’m stuck in Bangalore for a festival, like Christmas or Holi, me and a few unfortunate others can’t help but stand around and crib, about the empty and hollow feeling that surrounds us.

new-years-fire-works-1024x7681

There are Bangalorians of course, who have no where to go but be home, but I find that for most of them this phenomena of the ‘outsiders’ is still new and so while they celebrate their festivals in their own little caste based enclaves or homes, the ‘outsider’ is well, out. When its festival time I find North Indians, whom I don’t take too much, due to the cultural differences that separate us, much warmer and welcoming.

Why have I suddenly got nostalgic about festivals? Well, as a content writer I’m doing some writing, and obviously reading, about Christmas and gifting, and with the live radio belting out the latest carols, its not hard to create that little island, just me, the music and your computer!! And I’m glad it’s a festival once more and even glad I’ll be going home this time.

Soon it will be Christmas Eve

Soon it will be Christmas Eve

sparkly-ornaments-decorations

India has a small Christian population, just 2%, so I really don’t think it is a big event across the country. Thought I know that the news channels wish the Christians a Merry Christmas and so will the President and Prime Minister. A tiny clip of the pope saying the mass at the Vatican is show on the news, and Channel V and MTV will display little Christmasy icons.

But for Goa it’s different. It has a 20-29 % Christian population, huge colossal whitewashed churches along river fronts and looming from green hillocks and the tourism industry looses no opportunity to project the Christian population large. It’s been a while since I got all emotional and excited about Christmas. I’m spent the better part of the last three years away from home and Goa. But this year, as I attempt to integrate myself in Bangalore, things have been a little different. The Ascension Church I go to has made elaborate plans for Christmas and I’m looking forward to the flea market coming up this Sunday (7th December 08), and the next weekend, which is to have a carol singing contest. I remember the last flea market we had at Church, where me and my friend, pigged ourselves on Sanna (indigenous bread made of rice, coconut and coconut toddy) and Sorpotel (pork stew), homemade cakes, chicken samosas and other stuff. I bought enough of the sweets to last me into the following week and I’m looking forward to stocking up again. Nothing like delicious home food, cooked with tremendous love by some busy aunty and her family.

It’s already the 5th of December and Christmas Carols must be already playing on the radio back home. We would have fished out the Christmas Carol tapes and CDs stored away some placed and begun playing them too. This year my little niece, all of six months and a shade mischievous already, will be introduced to her first Christmas. I’m sure her mum who loves shopping must be already planning on her dress.

Jameima at her naughty best

Jameima at her naughty best

Jameima and her mum Lorraine

Jameima and her mum Lorraine

They must be planning our Christmas sweets and when they would need to be made, my mum planning her budget, my sisters planning on their dresses. Leandra, my youngest sister who is a tailor must be inundated with orders. And like some other festive times of the year, during Christmas too, all she can think about is fabrics, and threads, buttons and phone calls from worried clients eager for their Christmas gowns.

Jameima and her harried aunt Leandra

Jameima and her harried aunt Leandra

Besides being a hectic time on the domestic front, this is an especially busy time for mum at work. She teaches in the pre-primary on Lourdes Convent and late December is when they have their ‘Parents Day’ which means that all the kids put up some event either in the form on concerts and songs or a drill, for their parents. And preparation for this begins months in advance. Training kids, deciding on their costumes, getting the costumers ready, and hundreds of tiny logistics, can be a huge task especially when the kids in question are anywhere from 3 to 5 year old tots.

Jameima and her grandmum Virginia

Jameima and her grandmum Virginia

Soon they will be pulling out the cardboard box of all the statues for the crib, and the bunting. When we were kids, decorating the crib and the Christmas tree was an elaborate ritual. From going searching for a fir tree that we could hack at, to setting up the crib on a thin layer of sand on a table. Above the crib, on a string tied from wall to wall, would be the Christmas cards that would have come. The huge star frame of bamboo, lying on the loft, with its faded blue and white dressing and the gold trimming, would be stripped bear and redressed for the season. A bulb fixed into it and we would stand by for a few minutes admiring our handiwork and its soft glow.

People in Goa take designing their crib especially seriously. Besides the huge Christmas relief’s in all churches, of miniatures hills and caves and sheep and the three wise men making their way from the far end, all set into a blue translucent sky with big silver stars, people in their homes also design Christmas relief’s. Most of the times they are planned so big that they may be done in the veranda or garden, with grass growing on the miniature hills and little streams where the water flows and the clay statues of baby Jesus with his arms open, makes for interesting viewing.

When its Christmas, I can’t forget Mapuca, that’s the city nearest to us. Its where my mother goes shopping each Saturday, its where I studies for five years, up until graduation. Its where I worked, until I left Goa. Come a festival and Mapuca lights up, the already small market get packed with the increased number of vendors and shoppers, and people like me who will return home from Mumbai and Pune and the Gulf to spend time with their family.

There are stars that you can buy and that each Catholic home will put up. Statues for the crib, all types of buntings and a few fireworks, tons of fruits and readymade clothes, people will be flocking to the butchers and the frozen food shops, piles of vegetables waiting to be bought. Super markets overflowing, traffic everywhere, angry honks and people buying wines. When I think of Christmas in Mapuca, its one huge blur of glittering colours, sounds, textures, all wrapped up in an excitement that permeates the air.

For those along the coast of Goa, Christmas and New Year is the time when the money is made, the money that will help sustain the family for the entire of the coming year. Its when everything else stops, eating, sleeping, children, even personal time for Christmas and the business begins, brisk and crisp, the sense of competition is heightened and every little restaurant is trying to outdo the other to woo the customer, be it Indian or foreign. Sadly, this year will be hard for these small restaurants and hotels. The US and Europe has been hit hard by the recession. The ripple effects are still finding their way to India and the situation is not too pleasant here either, the terrorist attacks in Mumbai on 26th November have led foreign Governments to issue warning against traveling, and even though Goa continues to put up a brave front, it has virtually dealt the death knell to this tourism season. Well it may mean less money in the economy, but on the brighter side it might mean more of a ‘family Christmas’ for Goa.

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