When I was seven we spent our winter vacation in Delhi. We hadn’t moved to Delhi then, so we only visited the city to meet my cousins. It used to be a new adventure everytime, the new accent, new games to learn, new places to visit and watching people who behaved very differently from those back home.
One particular night, my uncle decided to take us to this market place we had never seen before. My brother and I put on our best clothes and off we went to see this new place. I can’t remember exactly where it was. Either South ex, or Def Col, I really can’t remember. But that was the first time I ever saw an Archies Gallery. My brother and I stared at those lights and beautiful gifts, toys, and the cards like two village idiots. We didn’t dare, however, to touch the items on display. “If you break anything, we’ll send you to these people to wash their dishes forever.” we had been warned.
Everything was so different. The shopkeeper was not a bearded man chewing paan and wearing a lungi, like back home. He was a smart young man who spoke good English. The shop was a full of glitter and there were decorations everywhere.
We saw a crowd outside and ran to see what was happening. There were kids mostly. All happy, flocking around a fat, old man in red. “We should move to this city!”, I whispered to my brother. “Why?” He whispered back.
“Don’t you see? The real Santa Claus lives HERE!”
After that I was assured that the Santa who came to our school last week was actually Sister Angela. (He did look too thin. And the beard fell off at one point.)
We came back home, with the candy that Santa Claus had given us, after shouting at us for not queueing up properly. What did we care? We had met the REAL Santa. That was all that mattered.
That was my first experience with Christmas. Commercial and pretend, but still. This year I experienced real Christmas. Celebrations with friends who celebrate it for the meaning. A fabulous dinner, with lots of jokes and stories flying around the table. Rerun of a movie which i have watched at least thrice before. And LOTS of people. Yes. Suddenly i don’t feel terrible about spending the holidays away from home.