Update for week ended 20 December 2013
I could not manage to get into Auntie Maggie’s list this year and was instead suggested to try her cousin Auntie Philomena in Dadar. Philomena was not really an auntie (or at least I thought she was much younger than I expected. She lived with her daughter who had married into a Goan household that stayed close to the Portuguese Church. They were a more cosmopolitan Goan family – who used Marathi as their lingua franca; and sometimes stocked up on the delights from Saurashtra (a store selling snacks like hot cakes at Dadar’s busy Pigeon Square. Although their stock of pork or sorpotel never ran out – it was largely sourced from Michael’s butchery (a store nearby which had a thick cloth curtain at the entrance so as not to offend the Gujaratis who lived nearby) or from the regular supply from Mr Pinto – the owner of the famous bus travel agency, who would get it from Goa on his buses. So here I was in the heart of Dadar waiting for Auntie Philomena to serve me the much prized Christmas Cake and some goodies. I was in luck and I got the cake. I was trudging down her rickety wooden staircase when I heard the familiar strains of a country drum and gentle scrubs – just like I had heard a few weeks ago outside a temple. I peered from the grilled window that dotted the end of the staircase between each floor – and was not surprised to see a familiar figure walking the street below – with a bundle carefully balanced on the head and she was doing the slow rumbling scrub on the drum as she walked slowly. The jingle sound was also providing a regular rhythm. And this was no Santa Claus. It was Morya’s father and mother walking the street near the church neighbourhood trying to “take away the sins” of the street’s denizens. I walked down the stairs carefully with my arms laden with the sweet goodies of the season and cheer on my face while I walked down to watch the two people “who could never be cheerful as they took away others’ sins”. I tailed them as they stopped at the tall fir tree that was decorated for the season with tinsel and fairy lights. It looked tall, green and pretty and they stood admiring the tree and people. There were people gathered around who were also admiring the tree and Morya’s father quietly approached them for alms. Some dropped a few coins into his cupped palms, while others excused themselves. And the father just took what he got and before moving on, saw a little altar by the church side. He stopped there for a moment when he saw a small coin box for collections. And he fished out a coin from his cupped palm and dropped one there. He was not allowed to enter the local temples – with his “sinful” body, but he could always thank his Gods with an offering. I was stunned. Here is a person who does one of the worst jobs I have heard of and yet he was humble enough to thank God for it. Before I got misty eyed, I crossed over to the Christmas Tree.
The season of decorating the tall Christmas tree had arrived. The D Boyz were all ready to see the fairy lights in green and red alternate itself on the tree. The cool breeze blowing through D Street also forced the Boyz to get their jackets out. Keeping with the Christmas theme, they wore the reds or the greens and that is how the Street favourite, the SENSEX behaved. Sometimes green, sometimes red, but always cheerful. Even if the buyers from across the shores tightened their purses, the D Boyz took that in their stride and took their SENSEX along with them on a ride from 20715 to 21079. It was not a straight ride one way – it was down at times – like my climbing down the stairs; or upwards like the towering green fir tree.
You are Morya’s father, right, I asked. The father was taken aback, and he answered in the affirmative. Why, he asked, concernedly. Nothing, I said. I just looked at him and asked him if he ate eggs. He was slightly puzzled with my question. I looked at the cake in my hand and asked him to take it. He hesitated, but I nudged him with a head nod. He did not know what to do. I smiled and asked him once again. I told him that it was a cake for him and his family for Christmas. I also asked him to promise me that he would share it with Morya and his sister, and his wife too. He smiled and took the cake and looked at it like it was a treasure that Alibaba found in the cave. He also held it like treasure – carefully taking it to his wife. He looked back at me and almost touched his cloth whip on his shoulder. I shook my head asking him not to whip himself. I felt happy that he was happy. With both happy faces, I was not sure who was the Santa of the season. Was it I for gifting him a cake? Or was it him who gave me a smile on my face? I was getting misty eyed and I smiled and quickly walked away. This is the season of giving and spreading cheer, isn’t it?
Have a great week and Christmas ahead! Cheers……. Hope Santa grants your wishes and you share it with your near dear ones!