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"A gleeful dollop of Blytonian magic ... Reddy Madhavan is also able to tackle some fairly sensitive subjects such as identity, the love of and karmic ties with parents, adoption, the first sexual encounter, loneliness, and my favourite, feminist rage." - Scroll

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24 December 2010

eM’s first Christmas (that she can remember)

So back in the 1980s, before globalisation and the internet and cable tv, Christmas was just another holiday, a day off school and I didn’t really expect much to be going on. My American cousins spoke about a TREE! and SANTA! but for me, eh, the good times ended on my birthday, and Christmas was just another of those foreign things, like Kit Kats, which only happened on the other side of the world.


Until my American cousins mother, my American Aunty came to visit us in Delhi and decided that CHRISTMAS had to be CELEBRATED because I was a CHILD. (And it’s criminal for kids not to have a Christmas). I don’t know how on board my parents were with this idea, I was already quite a consumerist kid, the tooth fairy being one of my main cash suppliers (what? I lost a lot of teeth!) and the addition of Santa Claus into my universe was sure to crash and burn. But once the idea of Santa Claus had been explained to me I was totally on board with the idea. A man bringing TOYS? Two weeks after my BIRTHDAY? Duuuuuuuuude. Bring it.


What I had to do was make a list and give it to my aunt to give to Santa. Now, I was already a little bit sceptical, but it was explained that this whole process was magic and one never questions how magic works. (Side note: my mom once told me Wee Willie Winkie visited her while I was out and asked for a piece of cheese. I believed this story for an embarrassingly long time. I think it was the cheese. Good liars always add details.)


So for my Christmas list I asked for


A snake.


A dollshouse.


And a couple of other things which I can’t remember. The snake was my testing device, if Santa brought me a SNAKE I was willing to believe.


Come Christmas morning and joyfully I leapt up to go look at the potted champa tree that served as a Christmas tree. And there were my presents! Remember, India in the 1980s had very little in terms of what you could get in the shops, so everything that we got was pure innovation. It was there! My snake! A gorgeous stuffed creature made out of green velvet. Okay, so it wasn’t the REAL snake I was expecting, but since I didn’t specify real on my list, I was pretty sure Santa made a mistake. Besides, I thought, wisely, a real snake would have been quite hard to keep.


Also the dollshouse. Here my aunt’s imagination went full swing. It was made out of wood with an open front and divided into four rooms. There was also a little staircase covered with red velvet and a pointed roof. The front was covered in wrapping paper to make it look pretty and she had sourced (or had made) little furniture to go in all the rooms. It was perfect.


Santa, I believe.


I never had a Christmas like that again, my aunt never coming over around the same time of the year and my parents not really caring about the holiday process. I got a book, something nice each year, but it was made clear to me that my holiday loot would end on my birthday. Alas.


But today, just as I whisk off to make merry at a Christmas party, I think about my dollshouse and my champa tree, and I smile. That was a good Christmas.


I hope you and yours have very happy holidays.


  1. This is such a sweet Christmas story eM...hoping you meet some interesting Santa's today ;)

  2. merry christmas! I have never, ever had a full fledged christmas in all my life... but like u said, the tooth fairy pretty much made up for it.

  3. That's a cute story. When I was a kid, I couldn't believe there were people willingly following to religions which didn't involve xmas. I felt so sorry for the kids! What do those kids say when they come back to school after the holidays? Showing off your presents was a very big deal, plus the teachers would always ask you to write essays and draw pictures about xmas. Then again, we didn't have that many other festivals during the rest of the year and certainly didn't know anything about festivals that people in other countries might follow. :o) I guess that's where your aunt was coming from. :o))

  4. Dear Kids,

    There is no Santa. Those presents are from your parents.

    Sincerely, Wikileaks

  5. I read your blog regularly but don't comment for some reason. Lovely post. Your posts are usually bursting with energy and i love them for that! This one was an exceptionally quiet and gentle one...had a strange grown up introspective feel to it! Anyway, Merry Christmas! :-)

  6. Hi Meenakshi
    Have a gr8 year. 2011 gonna rock and bring more varied stuffs on blogger

  7. This was a really sweet and cute post. It was a pleasure reading this on Christmas eve.

    May 2011 herald a new beginning for you, may your dreams come true, and may you be happy.

    Happy new year!

  8. oh..that was so cute
    and it was something that we called Christmas
    After reading this excerpt from your life it took me back a long journey into my life....
    i wish i had a christmas to cherish like this.


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