The Christmas gift
My tryst with the festival of joy and good spirits is somewhat curious.
Born and brought up in a conservative, yet liberal Tamil Brahmin family, Christmas is my closest experience of religious tolerance. As a child, I remember looking forward to Christmas; it was more enjoyable than all other festivals put together, back then. Why so, you wonder. Let me explain.This season gifted me a month long holiday – in contrast to the 3 days for Diwali- time with the entire family and the much-anticipated visit from Santa. Besides, it was the party season, an occasion to flaunt my ‘Christmas’ dress. At these parties, when anyone pulled me closer and cajoled me, I would be delighted by the attention I received, until my cheeks were pulled so they turned a cherry red, uh uh, not nice.
At home, festivities would be in full swing. Red stockings would hang above the pooja room, tinsels and stars would adorn the rooms and the aroma of an eggless plum cake would fill the house. Christmas dinner was nothing short of splendid. The menu mostly featured eggnog (payasam), Hors d’oeuvres (potato curry), bisibelabath – an equivalent of Ham’s standing, and cake. What’s more, my parents would even buy a Xmas tree and let the Michelangelo in me decorate it. The poor tree endured a number of atrocities: once I fell on it, losing it a few branches and on another instance, I painted it green, yes, green. Sigh, those were good times.
However, things changed with time.These customs grew old. I would wake up on Christmas Eve, plonk in front of the telly, listen to some carols, watch a movie and kill time. Christmas had become a sober affair- just another holiday. Slowly, the enchanting spirits of Christmas ebbed away. And sadly, I had grown accustomed to this gloomy way of life.
This year, though, was different. The spirits returned, and Santa decided to send me the best Christmas gift, in a long time. My gift didn’t come in a red box with gold ribbons. Neither was it kept under a Christmas tree and it definitely, wasn’t anything on the want list. Rather my gift was awaiting me, 1357 miles from Chennai, in a hotel room- the least expected place on earth. Little did I know, as I opened the door and walked in, I was in for a surprise.
I expected the usual array of hotel elements to welcome me. But lo and behold! There was the cure to my sore eyes! My heart leaped and tears filled my eyes. I felt light and free.I couldn’t just believe what I was witnessing. All I wanted was to sit and stare at the charm tucked in the corner of the room.Beckoning me, it stood magnificent and handsome, in a brown coat, and delicately touched with gold. I crossed the room and collapsed at the feet of this beauty. God! Where had I been all my life?
I savoured every second I spent with it and missed it dearly when I had to leave its side. Every time I drew up the chair and sat in front of it, I felt inspired. I would be hauled to another world watching the night lamp burn into the wee hours of the morning. I possibly couldn’t thank enough the universe for bringing us together. The three days spent with my gift were priceless.
When my stay at the hotel came to an end; I realised how this gift had made up for all I had lost this year. Never in this year of mixed feelings and confusing occurrences had I felt more at peace. As I walked out of the door, I bid it a bitter-sweet farewell.
When I checked out of the hotel; I inquired the receptionist about the gift that rested in my room, and this is what I received in reply, “Madam, the elegant writing desk in your room is mid-century; it dates back to the 1930s. Initially, it was used in the British quarters, and post independence, it was auctioned along with other furniture in the quarters. The desk is constructed with eucalyptus wood, birch veneer and is combined with a two tone chocolate cherry finish. Its aesthetic appeal is further accentuated with the Gabrielle legs and a beautiful decorative gold on-surface border. Moreover, to house your books and stationery, there are two drawers as well. It is one of our proud possessions and is worth a fortune.” I was delirious and left the hotel in elated spirits.
Imagine working behind the desk with a coffee mug on the right, your laptop in the center, and a pile of books on the left.
My Christmas gift had arrived early; leaving me feeling blessed and different. I couldn’t bring home the writing desk, of course, but that doesn’t matter. Some gifts will dwell in your hearts as good memories, leaving you more expectant of life.
– Shruthi Srinivasan