A small humble black and white TV with two channels. A small house where me and my mom cuddled and played and studied. The back yard, full of home grown vegetables and flower plants. The mixed smell of fog, dew and useful and useless plants. Beyond the backyard, idly laid the vast rice field. Golden during summers, swaying from side to side making a soothing hushhh noise,as the hot summer wind blew over them.
Ahh..I drifted away from the TV. Yeah, so we could watch TV only on Sundays and on occasions. We are not Christians or Muslims. We still enjoy Christmas, New Years, Muhorram and Eid holidays. So, my mum took me to a far away land to get a vanilla frosted cake for Christmas. She walked so fast that I literally jogged my way to and from everywhere that she took me to, holding my hand. She cooked chicken (also a special menu that we only got to eat on Sundays and on occasions) and we watched the TV together. I clearly do not remember what we watched because my brain was tired thinking about when I could get a piece of that beautiful cake!
“Ma, when will we eat the cake?”
“Its not 12 a.m yet, we should wait till it is 25th December, Jesus Christ’s birthday.”
Hmmm…I thought..we never eat our birthday cakes at 12 a.m!
The wait finally ended and she brought the cake. The beautiful white vanilla frosting, with little green sprinkles. She gave me a piece and said, “Merry Christmas”
20 years later, I wondered why we have been celebrating Christmas so, I called her up.
“Hello, Ma, well…why do we celebrate Christmas?”
“Hmm…your Grandfather was a lawyer, as you know, and many of his clients were Christians, some of them were friends with your Grandfather. During Christmas, they gave him baskets full of Plum Cakes and Oranges. It was kind of a happy time for us, as at that time, eating cake was a luxury. And there was a church right in front of our house…”
“Yeah, I remember that.”
“Yes and we studied in a convent, where we celebrated Christmas. We decorated Christmas trees and sang Christmas carols. As you guys were young and in winters we had nothing to look forward to, I thought why not celebrate Christmas.”
Kolkata in December is my kind of place to visit. The weather is not hot and humid, as usually it is. Park Street and Esplanade is decorated with small neon lights. India’s one of the oldest bakery in Park Street is attacked by cake-lovers like zombies going crazy to bite on a healthy human being. No cars are allowed after 6 pm on Park Street on Christmas Eve. People walk and talk, hold hands with their friends or lovers. You can hear Christmas carols everywhere. People are just happy.
As Kolkata used to be the capital of India during British rule, there are many churches to visit, built by the Britishers. The high arches and the sound of the choir resonating on the beautiful paintings on the walls and ceiling and then striking your ear drum , is bound to take you to a different era. It gives an insight about how/why Bengal’s people were influenced by the glamorous life-style of the British people.
Apart from Park Street’s high blitz, there are lot of fairs to visit. Kolkata’s Book fair is the largest book fair in the world. You can go to the Tech expo or Textile expo, flower shows or circuses. Just take a bus on a foggy afternoon and roam around the city. You will know what I am talking about. I am not a fan of my city, but this time of the year is the best time to visit Kolkata. If you want a quiet time, you can take a walk along Ganges or take a ferry to an unknown destination. You will immediately notice the difference between the humdrum of a city and a small reclined town on the other side of the river.
As always, this time too she will cook chicken and decorate the Christmas tree and probably have Plum cake. Visit Park Street or go to a fair nearby. Or maybe, she will just watch TV.
I wish I could be there.