Christmas, so ..

As I woke up and looked at my phone, my eyes twitched – so many messages! A feel-good sensation, almost instantly. I intended to linger the feeling and went straight to the toilet to do my morning rounds. For next some twelve odd minutes or so, it was ripple of musical waves in my mind’s ears. Happy, happy. And now, fresh after the nibble dance of the water all over my body through the shower,  I am encouraged to open my phone and see the messages. 

But I had to linger the feel -good sensation and delayed the job. And then, finally, with Darjeeling tea and its aroma all around the apartment when I opened the phone, OMG, so many whatsApp messages, and even a few Face Book messengers.

Being fewer in number, I opened the FB messenger first. And now, why don’t people understand that opening videos needs lots of data and data in this country are not in abundant supply at any cheaper price!

I closed FB messenger and went to the whatsApp. Wow.. my friend from Senegal, of all places!

Kevin and I worked for a brief period over almost ten years ago. We had many evenings together discussing his birth in Christian family and mine to Hindu parents. Kevin not going to a church on a Sunday was the sore point in his family but my not going to a temple even for religious rites was a normal phenomenon among our folks.

“Merry Christmas, bud” – Kevin wrote, and that’s all.

I instantly went back to my days in Dakar. The capital city of the country with almost entire population believing in Islam, had at least someone or more people running along the road whether it is 5 AM or past midnight. We used to chuckle – ‘a running nation awaiting the jump to the development’. There was Goree Island, less than an hour’s distance on the Atlantic Ocean, which stalled all my senses at the evidence of the barbaric atrocities of the white rulers in exporting slaves from Africa.

Kevin and I discussed many evenings about atrocities and religion.

After a few sips into my Darjeeling tea, I opened next message on whatsApp. It was an ordinary dull message of merry Christmas from a known person. I quickly browsed through, but got stopped at the FB messenger again. There was a video apparently of Celine Dion’s song.

Yes, it was. Celine Dion in her engaging voice sang a merry Christmas for the rich and the poor, black and white, and all others.

I quickly forwarded the video to ten odd people in two installments and felt content that on my part, I have done a great job in the Christmas. Greetings with a value added service (Celine Dion, for free)!

The song was just nice, beautiful and 4 minutes 18 seconds long. I got patting response from at least about 4 people I have sent the song, and they responded to me almost instantly, not later than 2 minutes 10 seconds. I wondered why they did not even complete listening to the song in full and then, send a thumps-up emoticon.

Later in the day, I asked Rhea why people behaved in such a hurry, but her response was a short smiley.

I read through all the messages and responded to everyone copy/pasting the Christmas picture and video from one to the other. A good exchange of messages, after all.

Half of yesterday’s chicken wrap was in the fridge for breakfast along with some left over bacon. Much later, the phone screamed with Moon on the other side. “Why were you not responding to whatsApp?” she demanded. Because I was engrossed in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, but I didn’t tell her in details.

My own childhood days. The sky used to reflect my imaginations, the grasshoppers used to create waves of a monotonous sound and the gravel path leading to the jungles, used to beckon me to be lost where the heroes used to fight the demons in the darkness.

“Sorry, I was reading” was my response to Moon. “Oh…. but you could have just sent me a short msg. Anyway, I am off with my friends for a Christmas cocktail and will not be available for next few hours” – Moon is gone.

When I settled down after the skirmishes on the phone, the 9th chapter of the book was moving in front of my eyes.

It was way past 5 PM when I woke up and was surprised at the long and unscheduled nap. I must have been tired of the monotony of my barren life. A quick shower in the humid approaching evening was refreshing. Time to eat and drink. Though there are lots of drinks in the closed shelves, I suddenly realized that there was nothing to eat.

Into my shorts and tee, I went down to the parking lot and switched on the engine to bring home some food.

Surprise! Four restaurants near the apartment building are close. I chuckled and branded them as lazy rich restaurateurs. The car then moved to its right for about half a kilometer but no shop was open. Strange. At past 6 PM, all the shops are closed.

“Hey..” – that was from Rhea. I pulled the car over and wrote back to her “Hello, what’s wrong with these guys in 3 kilometers from my place”.  “Why, what’s it” – she responded.

There was a Police vehicle from my rear view mirror. I instantly forgot if those 3 double gins and 1 cognac were my yesterday’s consumption or I just finished them before leaving my apartment, now. I pressed the accelerator quickly and swerved toward the first available lane on the left. Trying not to see the Police vehicle again, I wandered about six odd kilometers from my place. But strange enough, I did not find one single restaurant open. So, I drove back to my own parking lot.

Exasperated due to hunger and imminent fear of no food, I opened the phone and Rhea’s message “what’s up, where are you?”. I sent her an emoji of a crying baby and wrote there “hungry but no food, all shops closed”. She giggled back in words “Hello, it’s Christmas”.

So, how does it matter whether it is Christmas or not. Hunger and I cannot go together – one of our professors dramatized in the second year of my under graduation classes. He was teaching Marxian economics and trying to make sense that it was unnatural for people to remain hungry and that hunger cut across class, caste, race, gender and a great leveler in the society.

I wanted to bang the phone through to Rhea and say again “I am hungry”, but instead wrote to her “Hey, tell me some place I can get food from”. She repeated “Hello, all shops are closed, it’s CHRISTMAS!”

 “Christmas, SO  ..???? ” I wrote back.

“Come home, we have so much of food here – meat, turkey, Cakes ….” Rhea said. No, I can’t go to her place; I don’t know anyone there, her family and no one.

“But I can’t drive now, I had two gins already” I lied. “Don’t lie” she said but no longer on message, but through a quick phone call. “I can’t go, Rhea, please” I pleaded. The phone got disconnected.

Good many number of years ago – Kevin told me, when he was in teenager phase and his father being the only earning member of the family, was jobless, their family was passing through a very precarious situation of bitter poverty. During that period, they used to pass even one full day without food.

In that one year, Christmas day arrived on schedule. Merriment was visible across the streets of their suburban locality, but his parents could not bring in food for the family the whole day.

Kevin’s youngest brother – around 4 or 5 years of age, learnt that Cake was an integral part of Christmas celebration and cried for some cake the whole day. When Kevin told me the story, he was already an established management consultant with riches all around, but through his eyes, I could see the acute pang of sadness that he had felt by not being able to provide to his brother even a small piece of ordinary cake to celebrate Christmas.

Up into my apartment, inside the fridge, there were beer cans, some butter, square cheese, tomato sauce and yesss two packs of Swiss chocolate.

Much later, I sent a message to Kevin apologizing delay in my reciprocal greetings, then another one to Moon asking her to let me know what food she enjoyed aside her cocktail and just before I hit the bed, yet another message to Rhea

“Oh, yes, I ended with Swiss Chocolate – Christmas, so!”

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