Friday, December 24, 2010
Oh, those giant stars!
When your daughter hums jingle bells everyday for over a week, you know Christmas and the holiday cheer is here. Her school is celebrating Christmas today and she is totally excited about the Jingle (The tree as she calls it!) and the small gift boxes they have placed underneath it. Seeing her so worked up over this festival that invariably seems to bring a smile to everyone’s face (either because they believe in it or they are just plain happy with the holidays), I can’t help but feel all happy myself. Thinking about it in the fuzzy state between sleep and wakefulness this morning, I suddenly remembered a time when I used to be equally if not more excited over Christmas.
It must be almost two decades back. I was this quiet kid who always observed the things outside and then lived them inside her head. And my sanctuary was the beautiful, if a little unkempt, garden full of Gooseberry, Lemon and Badam trees behind my house. It used to be my very own ‘secret garden’ though I didn’t read that until much later. I also loved visiting my granny’s place that was really far away (meaning you have to take a bus!) because she used to always listen to all our demands. We all liked her a lot because she never hesitated to sacrifice half of her one litre milk to make sweets for us kids. And of course, I associate the holiday season with this subconscious memory of happy times because that’s when we used to visit her more often.
Amongst all these nice memories are ones of Asha aunty. She was my granny’s exotic Anglo Indian neighbor who wore gowns and made cakes at home. And she used to put up these giant Stars outside her door and light them up every evening. Oh, did they look utterly pretty to my eyes or what? When I became a little older, I decided to drudge my courage and ask my mom for my very own giant star to hang outside our house when I learnt “that’s for Christmas” (and unsaid in that “which is not for us”). I was greatly disappointed. How can anyone not celebrate this beautiful festival where you get to hang stars in your house? And those yummy cakes that Asha aunty used to spare us kids sometimes….how can my mom not know how to make them? I was crestfallen!
So when I became a wee bit older and the next Christmas season came along (when people started hanging stars), I knew what I had to do. Just because my parents don’t celebrate the star festival doesn’t mean I can’t. And just because they can’t buy me those stars, it’s no reason to not make one (or many) of my own, right?
So off I went to my garden one day with my homework notebook to make quick use of its till then useless papers. I cut out over 10 small stars and hung them on the low branches of the Badam tree with my thatha’s binding thread. I then ran back to my mom and begged her to buy me some cake from the nearby bakery. After a few hours, armed with a delicious smelling plum cake and accompanied by a small hoard of friends I had invited to ‘celebrate’ with me, I went to the garden looking for my mini giant stars. Ha! there they were ….so pretty even if I say so myself. I puzzled over the fact that I won’t be able to light them up but quickly forgot the worry when one of the other kids nudged and pointed towards the cake.
So what next? I had the cake and I had the stars. But how does one celebrate Christmas? Growing up in an orthodox Hindu family, the only common way I knew to ‘celebrate’ festivals is to make sweets (in this case buy), and then by way of a pooja offer it to the gods after which the prasad (the offerings) is distributed to all the family gathered around. So I took my cake, cut it into little bitable pieces, took some water in a tumbler and after closing my eyes for a few moments to mutter some ‘mantras’, I ‘offered’ it to my stars! (Water is usually sprinkled over the Prasad before offering to God to ‘cleanse’ them symbolically in Hindu households) And within a few moments of that, the cake vanished into the hungry mouths of all the kids sitting under the watchful eyes of the stars. My Christmas wish was complete. I didn’t need a santa!
Thinking back now, I marvel at the industriousness of that quiet kid who made her own Christmas stars and shared her plum cake. Grow up to today! If there’s no one around, there won’t be a crumble of the plum cake left for anyone! The giant lighted stars don’t look so great anymore too but am happy I thought of them so once.
Ha! This is indeed a special time of the year, isn’t it?