If you have to ask you'll never know ! [L.Armstrong]... thats Louis not Lance.

Dec 27, 2007

Please come home for Christmas.

Christmas is the time for peace on earth and goodwill to all men. The Christmas lunch is the time for strife and marital discord. Midnight mass has been uplifting. The choir outdid themselves. The sermon was short and therefore sweet. The full moon shining down just added to the magic of Christmas night. And we managed to put behind us for a little time the big fight. About wheter Christmas lunch was at Mummies house or Mummies house. It normally goes in rotation. This year the in'laws house, next year Mummies house. But then visiting children who have come down for the first Christmas in five years or grandparents who are not going to be around next year queer the pitch. And going over for dinner is just not the same thing. It's like a matinee show, backwards. Or a pit stop on the way to the Gym for the dance. Going over the next day for lunch is like watching BenHur on your Ipod. Though the chicken curry does taste better.
Many years later the balance of power subtly shifts. Mummy and Daddy and Mummy and Daddy all come over to your house. The requisite phone calls come in from Sydney, Missisauga and California. You wonder. Did we really sulk at each other for three days because of Christmas lunch ? Over a chicken pretending to be a turkey.
Now we're older and wiser. No we are'nt. Circumstances just make us seem that way. One day we'll learn that it's all about peace at home and goodwill to Mummy and Daddy [ -in-law ] too.

Dec 24, 2007

I went to see my Darling ...

... last Saturday night.
He comes around thrice in the year. At late evening. A child in tow. The child and he both singing out loudly. His harmonium struggling to keep pace. Many years ago a woman would come around with him singing while he only played the harmonium. She has'nt been around for a while. Did she go back to the village. Did she join a call centre ? He isn't begging. He's an entertainer. He sings a song for you and if you like it you pay him. In old clothes, or old toys and sometimes money.
Come Christmas time, he visits Bandra. When peoples hearts grow large and their purse strings loose. His repetoire is largely Hindi film based. Yeh Kali Kali Ankhe, gets evrything he's got. No orchestra backing him , or studio editing to cancel out mistakes. Just his whole heart and his soul.
Where did he learn his signature tune ? Where did he learn to play the harmonium ? Where does he come from ? Where does he go? And for how many years more will we see him ? Before he joins the ranks of the barbers who came around on Thrusday morning to give us our haircut. The gas lamp lighters who came around every evening to light the street lamps. The Kalai wallahs who set up their bellows in the compund to kalai our hundis. The soori dar wallahs with their energy efficent cycles. The list goes on, hopefully he will too.

Dec 21, 2007

There's an Old Christmas e-mail !

In far away Mississauga they wait for the first snow to herald the oncoming of the Christmas season. In Bandra we wait for the first Christmas card. The postmen would gear up for the extra load. The post office would issue press statements asking you to post your cards early. To bear with them if the delivery of your cards was late. There were Papal postal seals issued specially for Christmas with which you sealed your envelopes. In school for the last art class before the Christms holidays we had to draw a Christmas card. The postman would deliver your mail to the door. Personal mailboxes were for Americans. The postmans Christmas baksheesh depended on this. The foreign stamps would be steamed of the envelope to put into your stamp album. Duplicates were put aside for day trading. The cards brought with them pictures of snowmen and stables, reindeer and wisemen, sometimes pictures of distant cousins of whom this annual picture was all you ever saw of. Handmade cards from those who thought themselves artists. Nativity scenes with Mother mary in a saree for the local touch. All the cards would be strung up from special card holders. Streaming down one corner of the room. Or spanning the doorway from living room to kitchen. Or placed upright on the piano. You always had a few blank cards to spare. To reply to the card that came in from somebody you had'nt sent a card to. The musical cards would tingle Jingle bells when you opened them. We looked at those , convinced that if the country they came from made this then it couldnt be much more diificult for them to put a man on the moon. The batteries of these cards would be over long before Christmas, thanks to the constant demos of the magical musical cards ability to every visitor including those to the neighbours house who would be brought over to see this marvel of science and technology. [ This was in the pre Made in China days ]. There were 3D cards that would come from Japan. [ I still don't know how they do it ? ] But the cows and donkeys and Baby Jesus in them were as real as real could be. There were fold out cards that had the crib popping out at you as you opened the card. Or Santa taking off out of the card as you unfolded it. The really nice ones we'd use as Cristmas decorations. The average ones we'd cut up for gift tags next year. There would be cards from Aunt's who lived down the road and whom you would see at midnight mass and personally wish.
Then came the global village and the world wide web. The postmans bag gets lighter every year. His baksheesh demands are half hearted. The telegram wallah has thrown in the towel and does'nt even come around anymore. And Gentleman Jim is going to be singing
' There's an Old Christmas e-mail ...'

Break Dancing !

There was a long break and a short break. In school. The short break was 15 minutes. 11.00 o'clock and the bull pens would open. 2000 boys would descend ontp the playgrounds. There was a front ground [ in front of the school ] a back bround [ guess where ? ] and The Rev. Fr. Donnelly Gym. The building was three stories high. Yet 15 minutes was enough to skip to the loo, buy your batata wada ,or wada pav if you had the extra bullion. Then get into a game of tops or marbles or even a quick game of football or hockey. The first bell would go off to reverse the exodus. By the second bell 5 minutes later all 2000 of us would have made it back to our classrooms . Where we'd wait , [ whats the opposite of eagerly ? ] for the teacher to appear.
At 1.00 o'clock the bell for the lunch break would go off. we'd charge down the stairs. Cycle home. Have lunch. Cycle back to school and continue the hockey game that had been brought to an abrupt end in the short break. Some of the rich kids had servants , the others had mothers who would bring a dabba to school for them. They'd repair to the lunch room. Not having to commute for food they'd have a head start over the others at the grounds. The 12 pillars on which cricket wickets could be drawn with chalk would have been appropriated by these fattened little emperors before we'd even been told to wash our hands before eating at home. Soon everybody would be back and on the ground. There were two goal posts, one at either end of the field. Which did service for the ten odd games. Together. So you had to remember the color of the ball of the game you were a part of. Five goalies would all be covering the same goal at the same time. While trying to get control of your ball you had to stay away from the others especially if you were in the sixth standard and the other games were the seventh ,eight ,ninth and tenth standards. There was never any audience participation , because there was no audience. Everybody was a player. The bell to signal the end of the lunch break would go off at 1.55. And 2000 boys who could get from class to playground in 25 seconds flat would take at least 5 minutes to reverse the process. Until 3.45 when the bell signalling the end of the days torture went off. And then we'd better our time of class to playground by three seconds at least.

Dec 20, 2007

Massacare of the Innocence !

We were at midnight mass last year.Standing on the grounds of St. Andrews. The choir harking us to listen to heralding angels. When Mahia [ My now eight,then seven year old daughter] tugged at me and excitedly told me that she saw him. Who? Santa. She saw Santa flashing through the night sky above Bandra in his sleigh pulled by reindeer. Her eyes sparkled with excitement and she was sure he was headed to our place to drop her Christmas present off.
Every year she'd missed him. She'd fallen asleep to find Santa had visited and left. There below the tree were the presents she'd wanted.
She knew that the Santa's that she saw at Christmas parties or the mall or with carol singers were just actors. The real Santa was the one she always missed. Until now.
A year went by. She came back from school one day and asked me " Is there a Santa ? "
Why? Because her teacher told her that there is no real Santa. The great big Santa conspiracy that every parent is a part of was exposed. I'd fooled her these eight short years.
Mary saw the angel Gabriel. The shepherds saw choirs of angels with the heavens unfolded. The three wise men saw a star. On St. Andrew's grounds on that Christmas night I saw Santa.
Was it a fire cracker? A stray shooting star ? A welding arc on one of the highrises ? Maybe. But thru Mahia's eyes , I saw Santa.

Dec 17, 2007

Who will watch the Watchman?

At the entrance to our building sits our watchman. He's travelled a thousand odd miles from his village in Nepal. Crossed the border and come to Mumbai. To gaurd us against petty thieves and direct the Pizza and Domino delivery guys to the right address. He's left behind wife, children and parents, a few fields that he could barely crack the ground open on to sow some rice,his temple and his king.[ Thank yo Ritchie Blackmore ] He works a twenty four hour shift .Twelve hours with us and twelve hours at another building . He sleeps sitting up. The gate has to be opened everytime a car goes in or out. He has a co-operative with the other watchman in the neighbourhood for his lunch and dinner. The Nepal times is circulated amongst all of them , a few days after it's sell by date but it's still pictures of home [ Thank you Deep Purple ].
He washes the cars at the end of his shift. He escorts the kids when they cross the road. He helps the old Aunties of the building with their bags in and out of rickshaws. Suitcases are carried up and down flights of steps like feather pillows when it's holiday season.
At Christmas time he helps us string up our decorations in the building lobby. He climbs the mango tree to string up the star. He knows the intricacies of the water pumps and gives us last mile connectivity with the BMC water dept. He buys the bread from the breadman when we're out and knows how many kelas each house needs per week.
The underground railroad carries money, clothes and people between Nepal and Mumbai. When he gets so homesick that all the gold in Jhaveri Bazaar cannot keep him here he brings his cousin around and introduces him to everyone in the building.
He heads back home. A three day journey. Part bus, part train and a three hour walk at the end of it all.
Our cousins go to Dubai or California, our brothers join the ship or the oil fields, Jo-Boy went to
New Zeland. Somewhere in Nepal is a twelve year old boy who dreams about being a watchman in Mumbai one day.

Dec 11, 2007

The Fourth King.

It was a small family. A mother and two children. She took catering orders to try and make the money for food ,clothes ,school uniforms , shoes, rent and the million things that you needed money for. Yet she found the extra money to drop into the collection plate at church and pay her dues to the Society of Vincent de Paul every month.
December was a busy time. Lots of first communion parties, engagements and post wedding dinners. The one set of new clothes that she got the kids thru the whole year was at Christmas. Potato chops and ribbon sandwiches didn't allow for new clothes for birthdays or new curtains for Easter. They'd chosen what they wanted. A dress with ribbons lacing thru for her little girl and the new pair of jeans and matching jacket for her boy.
There was a Tsunami and there was a special collection in church for that. Then came the earthquake in Chile and money for medicines was what they had decided to collect. The neighbours daughters first communion party bill had still not been paid. She could'nt ask them for money now. Not at Christmas with all the expenses thay had on their heads. So she started walking to the market insted of using the bus. She had a cold bath to save on the electricity. The sidings from the catering order ribbon sandwiches served for lunch.
She got the dress with the ribbons and the jeans and the jacket for the kids. They went to midnight mass and prayed at the crib later. They saw the angels and the manger,the shepherds and their sheep. She wondered how difficult it must have been for the three kings . To travel to a strange land. Following a dream that they were'nt even sure was real. Leaving behind their families and kingdoms. She thanked the baby Jesus for her life which she told him was blessed and comfortable. Where she had a roof over her head. Where she did'nt have to travel thru strange inhospitable lands. Children whom she loved and who loved her. And for being able to give them a new dress and pant and jacket for Christmas.

Dec 9, 2007

"Lorna" mojhe Mog

Statutory warning.
This blog has very little to do with Bandra.
There is a drummer who lives in Mahim called Raymond Albuqerue. He was on his way to a picnic at Marve. The bus that was picking everybody up started from Dhobi Talao. Worked its way thru Dabul and Dadar and Mahim and Bandra before finding its way to Marve. The group had hired two cottages there. One for the boys and one for the girls. They got around to opening the beer or squash or whatever it was they were drinking . Then over the wall from the girls side came a voice singing " Where the boys are ". Raymond was on the top of the wall from the boys side before the first verse was over. Looking down to see who was singing. Thats when he first heard Lorna. He met Lorna Cordeiro and she wanted to come and sing with Raymonds band. So they fixed it up for 10 o'clock the next Sunday morning. She was there at 9.30 a.m. . And the rest as is often said, is history.

Chris Perry introduced Lorna on the Konkani stage. Chris Perry’s valuable lyrics with his original soul-touching music and Lorna’s inimitable voice created a revolution in Konkani singing.

And the nightingale’s voice of Lorna created the magic in rendering the songs effectively

Lorna Cordeiro, Goa's golden-voiced nightingale, visited Goa during the last leg of electioneering. Obviously bitten by the election bug, crowd-puller Lorna bolstered the UGDP's campaign by glorifying UGDP's supremo Churchill Alemao with songs set to tunes of popular Chris Perry-Lorna hits of yesteryear

Khalap, the outgoing Union minister for law and justice, got Farooq Abdullah and Gujral to campaign for him. Alemao, of course, went with the singers Lorna Cordeiro and Nephie Rod.

Mandd Sobhan proudly presented The Lorna Show at the newly built Milagres Hall Complex, near Milagres Church, on 9th of October at 6 pm. This program was a fabulous hit with Goan Songs, Goan Artistes, Goan Jokes and typical Goan evening.

The panel of judges was Ms. Esmie D’Souza, Mr. David Fernandes and Ms. Lorna Cordeiro. At the end Ms. Lorna Cordeiro entertained the audience with her hits of yesteryears. Later, the Hindu community of the three wards gathered in the Chapel to offer thanksgiving to St. Anne.

This has nothing to do with Bandra other than the fact that Raymond and me were both
celebrating our friend Jessica's wedding and well, she's from Bandra.

Viva Lorna .

Dec 7, 2007

Open Season

America has expats, Iran has political refugees, Britain has explorers , we have NRI’s . White shoes . White track shoes. The sign of an NRI. Shoes that have been getting out of heated houses into heated carports into heated cars into mechanically cleaned sidewalks into glass box office buildings and then all the way back again. Without ever seeing mud. Or dirt , or dust. Tee shirts that are white with bleach and have what we still think of as new clothes smell. It’s fabric softner. The fact that we use a washing machine, seems to be enough comfort. Fabric softener and bleach would be total self indulgence.
The handy cam always ready, recording the odd cow or elephant. Every cousin aunt uncle and old neighbour lined up and shot in 8 megapixels for the family album. Eating panipuri at Elco’s with the accompanying bottle of Bisleri. Buying a years supply of coconut hair oil and wishing it could buy a year’s supply of bhelpuri. Making the trip to Goa. And visiting every cousin there including the ones you didn’t visit when you lived in India. Finding out wheter Goa sausages are still on the FDA’s banned list. What about if you seal it in a tin ?
Catching up with condolence visits . Aunts who burst into tears remembering you. Every Aunt tells Jo Boys son that he looks just like JoBoy did when he was small.
You like sweets ?
Just like Jo Boy.
You don’t like studying ?
Just like Jo Boy.
You trouble your sister a lot ?
Just like Jo Boy.
You go to play when it’s time to say prayers ?
Just like Jo Boy.
Aunty I got news for you. Most boys in the world are just like Jo Boy. Pass the nankaties.
Three weeks fly by. Barely opened your suitcases dispensing Toblerones, Black Labels and pictures of the Thousand Island picnic have to be repacked and its time to go. Back home where you’re gonna have to get a new pair of sneakers. This pair is never gonna be white again. Ever.

Dec 6, 2007

Green was an adjective not a noun !

Presents were never ripped open in front of the presenter. You carefully peeled away the sticky tape later and folded the wrapping paper and put it under the mattress. [ With the crosses from Palm Sunday ]. To be recycled for the time when you would be the presenter. String that held parcles together would be unravelled and added to the ever growing ball in the cupboard. Old toothbrushes were kept below the bathroom basin to come into service for cleaning the kitchen and bathroom tiling grout [ Ok Joints]. Bottles. If they were white bottles they'd be saved for holding KalaKatha concentrate which mixed with soda gave you something that came closer to Coca Cola than the real thing. Or orange juice or limbu [ Ok Lemon ] concentrate in the summer. Best of all for bottle masala, or vindaloo powder or sec sec or any of the million and one combinations of crushed chilli, tumeric ,pepper, ginger that brought the masalchis from Vasai pounding to our door. The bottle came into service best at Divali when it formed the launcing pad for rockets. If you were brave and stupid you held the bottle in your hand while your not so brave and cleverer friend / brother lit the fuse and ran back. While you tried to get the rocket to hit plant holder hanging on the sixth floor balcony. Beer bottles fetched you a buck a piece. Eleven empty beer bottles got you enough money for one full one.[ Yes I'm that old !] Coloured bottles with caps were used to store wine. The darkened color of the bottle helped keep the wine stable. Fused light bulbs and bottles without caps were filled with water and money plants thrived in them. Crawling up the window grills they were suspended from and bringing nature into ever higher flats. And when the bottle was totally toally gone you crushed it into as fine a powder as you could and saved it for kite flying season when you made your own manja. Empty bottles of Scotch with the label intact were sold to the Jari Purana Bai who came around with a basket on her head. What she needed it for you found out when you bought some Johnny Walker at Christmas time and it tasted like Santra. Paper you lined the dutbin with. You spread out on the staircase landing floor when the barber came to give you a haircut. Or you gave to the altarboys when they had a newspaper drive to raise money for their annual picnic. Old hacksaw blades could be sharpened into the finest kitchen knives with electrical tape wound many times over making a handle. Old sari's were joined together to make quilts and old shirts cut into squares for dusters. Old drawing crayons were the coloring for your homemade Christmas candles. Old curtains were the new cover for the Rajdoot mototrcycle that your father loved more than your mother. [ She was the transfigurer ]. Stale bread made bread pudding for tea the next day. Or bread crumbs stored in a wide mouth bottle to bread the cutlets with. Stale cake...
There never was a chance for the cake to go stale. We're bandra buggers after all.

Dec 5, 2007

Operation Flood!

On a cold and grey Chicago morn, another little baby child is born, in Bandra. He grows up and when he's twelve he's told he's got to fetch the milk. You have to be at the milk booth line before the milk runs out. So you stumble out of bed and sleep walk to the kitchen meatsafe,below which the bottles are kept.

To the door and halfway out before you realise your still in your pyjamas. Changed , you make your way down stairs to find the other milk collectors from your building have started off to the milk booth without you. Its December so it's dark and it's cold. You're struggling to remember what your Mother told you last night. Two toned milk [ red striped caps] , one ordinary [blue striped caps] or was it the other way around. You run to catch up with them, clutching milk bottle carrier in one hand and milk money in the other. [ your home shorts pocket has a hole and the money might slip out ]. You're at the end of the line of milk bottles . Everyone leaves their bottle carriers in their order of arrival to mark their place in the queue and tries to find the most comfortable spot on the pavement to sit. The window from which the milk is sold is shut but the service door to the booth is open. The milk truck arrives and the newbies in the line scramble to pick up their bottles and retrieve their place in the queue. But old hands like us know that the line is going nowhere until the window opens. The man selling the milk from the booth has his own supply chain going so out of the 400 odd bottles of milk delivered only 250 [ or thereabouts ] is going to be released into the free market. The professional delivery men with baskets the size of airport trolleys corner more than half the market. They probably come in after dinner every night and spend the night here. [ You would if your daily bread and butter depended on delivering somebody elses milk ] You've reached the head of the line and there's still milk available. Alleluia ! You wont have to go to the Bhaiya's dairy and buy his concoction of three parts milk ,one part water. You head home finding time to look up into the dark December morning sky and see Orion getting ready to be banished into the pre dawn. At home the foil striped cap comes off. You put your finger into the bottle and retrieve what has to be the tastiest, thickest, freshest, everythingest cream in the world. Three bottles, three caps off, [ carefully so that they can be refixed on the bottles, because Mother thinks it's piggish to retrieve the cream with a not too clean finger ]. three heavenly slurps. Why can't you use the handle of the spoon ?
And back to bed you go where you have the strangest dream. That milk will be available in packets. And you can keep it for more than a month without it going bad. That even Modern Stores who until now deals only in Amul butter and dollars has rectangular blue cartons filled with milk on his shelves. That whenever and wherever you want milk you can get it. Yeah sure ! Wishes are horses and beggars will ride.

You can keep the Porsche !!!

All roads lead to Rome and in Bandra they lead to the station. Wheter you live at Bandstand or at Carter Road on the reclaimation or Pali Hill. You wait a few minutes and along comes the big red bus. So you jump over the feet of the junkie who is chasing heaven over a piece of foil behind the bus stop and clamber aboard. If it's rush hour you hang out of the door with all the grace of a Gemini Circus trapeze artist hanging onto his swing. Until the crowd surges inside and you get a foothold on the steps. A balancing act still, but you're not swinging free every time the bus makes a turn. A gaggle of school girls and a school of Kohli fisherwoman in front of you stop you from reaching the conductor. Since Mohammed can't reach the mountain the mountain comes to Mohammed. For the princely sum of a rupee you are on your way to Bandra station. College and school students, office goers, all thrown together on this ship. The Captain [ Ok Driver ] navigates thru the perilous waters of Turner road with it's dug up trenches and jaywalkers and Maruti minnows daring to challenge the might of this BEST whale. Picking up people at every stop and once in the middle of the road when flagged down by an off duty policeman ? Fellow Driver ? Brother-in-law ? He's allowed to get in from the front of the bus. He's not old and he's not infirm. The कसा hai and the बररा hai are exchanged and he's allowed to perch on the bar seperating the Captain from the crew. One of the Kohli women is waving her koyta at one of the office goers who'se front came to close to her back. The Captain gets into the home stretch but suddenly screeches to a stop in tandem with the bus coming in the opposite direction. The Captains are friends. So there they sit discussing the price of copper shares in Bolivia while the world and their dog are trying to get by them to make the 7.51 local to Churchgate. With a wave and a honk we're off again. To be deposited right outside the station where a blue uniformed T.C. checks each person for a ticket as they get off the bus. Right next to him is a Hijra who'se breaks into smile and promises you children as numerous as the sands of the sea for the loose change in your pocket. The Captains brother in law does'nt have a ticket and the Captain has to intervene to keep him fineless. The Captains off again round the masjid and into the depot where he hands over command and repairs into the canteen for a glass of hot tea and hotter bhajias while he hangs up his uniform shirt in the staff room while scracthing his belly thru his half sleeved banian with the satisfaction of a job well done.

Dec 4, 2007

Oh Carols !

Christmas is coming. The geese are getting fat. There's a carol singing practise at 4 o'clock. We gather around the guitarist who gives us our note while the organ sits feeling left out of things only because it's too big to walk around with. The usual Jingle Bells and Rudolph are sung in three part harmonies thanks to Celeste who can sings harmonies like you and me brush our teeth. Allwyn is appointed as Santa Calus and he gets the costume out of the choir loft to try it on for size. He's told to buy fresh cotton to replace last years yellowed beard. The collection boxes are cleaned and the keys to their locks found behind the incense burners in the sacristy. The triangles and tambourine are fought over. Till it's decided that whoever get here first on the 20th gets it. The routes are planned. On the basis of last years generosity of said routes inhabitants. The poor and the dispossesed are going to be dispossesed out of our carols this year too.

And we're off. A motley bunch of people. Women old enough to be called Aunty but not so old that they can't keep pace. Uncles whose baritone finds an outlet amidst Johnson bath tiles and are denied freedom of expression at all family parties. Santa Claus with a big red bag, gutarists, triangle and castanet players. We gather around our guitarists in the garden of the first building we visit and wait for the stragglers to catch up. Jingle Bells resounds between building walls and water tanks. Inhabitants come to their balconies. The dog on the 2nd floor bursts into frenzied barking that threatens to drown us out until he's muzzled. The collectors have gone up the stars and start working their way down floor by floor. Trying to stay away from idle chit chat like
" How's Mummy ? " Unless the interrogation is sweetened with milkcream and marzipan. Into Pali Village we go. There's an old blind lady who can't move out of the house so we are all requested inside. A squeeze. She actually looks happy to see us [ figuratively speaking ] . She gets our whole repetoire from Jingle Bells to We wish you a... with Rudolph and Frosty the snowman hanging somewhere in the middle. Christmas sweets and Old Monk make our cup runneth over. We leave , a warm thank you from a happy sightless person who makes 80 yrs look young .
We just
can't wait to get back
On the road again.
[ Thank you Willie Nelson ].
The collection boxes are heavier and running up and down flights of stairs is not as much fun as it was two hours ago. Santas looking macho with white chest hair. [His beard slipped.] The songsheets are being used less as Angels we have heard on high imprints itself in our heads. Carollers whose houses are on the route are abandoning ship. The bright lights of early evening are fading. When the collectors are answered at the door by pyjama clad uncles and nightie clad aunties we know it's time to call it a night. The leftover sweets in Santas bag make the urchins at the traffic light happy as he solitarily walks back home to knock of red suit and white beard and settle down to his potato chops and dal currry for dinner.

Dec 3, 2007

Cribbing !

The wheat was planted three weeks ago.. Not for the karif or rabi crop but for the crib. To line around the meadows of your little Bethlehem in Bandra. You get the figures together . Joesph and Mary in a football huddle over a missing baby Jesus. [ He can only be put into place after midnight mass on the 25th. ] The shepherds , one with a crook and one with a lamb slung over his shoulders [ Is it for warmth? Is it a fashion statement ? ] The donkey and the cow. Chewing their cud looking on at their manger being used as the delivery room. Angels doing their balancing act on the roof of the crib . The star that you hang from the curtain rod so that the tinsel drapes down to the angel like starlight. A flame that flickers with the cosy warmth of red and yellow cellophane paper. Wine shops would be visited to get the hay for the roof and to be strewn around the cow and the donkey. Liquor came packed in wooden boxes lined with hay then. Corrugated paper packaging makes for hungry stable animals. A mirror to look like a little Bethlehem pond. Then came the snow storm. Enough snow to make even the Hummer need snow chains on it's tires. Until Mr. Know It All Cousin Reggie told us it does'nt snow in the Middle East now and it did'nt snow in the Middle East 2000 years ago. So no more cotton from Bandra Medical { non sterile type } was flaked down.The crushed brown paper that formed the bricks and mortar of the manger was splattered with wet mud to make it look earthy and realistic. The three kings with their one camel would be genuflecting near the showcase far away from the altar to a baby Jesus they would reach only on the 6th of Jan. Every day they would move a little closer. Showcase to coffee table. Coffee table to sideboard. Sideboard to the pelmet for the great leap across the front door. Pelmet to fish tank roof. Drawn by the star with their gold , frankincense and myrrh. And the tallest of them says " Oh for a handheld GPS " . You wish ! The sheep inhabit your agricultural endeavaours in recycled plastic containers from Jimmies Kitchen and Pals Fish Fry.
All is well in the manager until the next morning when LeelaBai , the maid, troops in to work and you are away at school/office/putting up your mother-in-laws crib. She cleans and she dusts and then proceeds to rewrite the nativity. Mary is hanging out with the shepherds. The sheep cows and donkeys are being shepherded by Joesph. Two kings are heading towards Japan while one waits in line for his Amercian visa. And the tallest of them says ' Oh for a handheld GPS.' She's destroyed your hills and valleys of Bethlehem and it now resembles the plains of the Punjab. Wheat grass in neat orderly rows. Spin in your graves Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.
You being a purist reunite Joesph with his wandering bethrothed, and the shepherds with their wandering sheep. The three kings are once more looking at the star and their camel has been made to toe the line.
In the midst of it all lurks the Santa Claus candle. With a stringless snowman that can't be hung from the nearest Chritmas tree anymore. Baby Jesus safe on the altar hidden behind himself aged 6 and looked at by a slightly aged Joesph and Mary in their Holy Family avtaars.
Waiting for the heavens to open up and choirs of angels to burst into Gloria in Excelis Deo while he takes his rightful place in the manager and in our hearts.