Christmas at 'Clusters'

From the albums

Christmas at 'Clusters'

Christmas is almost here  and that brings back a bouquet of memories for me. Right through my growing-up years, Christmas was a fun-filled affair at my  grandmother Lurtha Williams’ old bungalow on Mission Road, which we called ‘Clusters’.

It was funny how the name ‘Clusters’ came about. Since it was a cluster of houses in one compound — one main house with four to five houses at the back — my grandfather came up with that name. I lived in ‘Clusters’ for over 40 years.

The run-up to Christmas was exciting and we would make streamers out of kite/tissue paper in the first week of December. A brocade cloth used to be bought for the altar, which was handpicked by my grandmother. When we were very young, ducks would be bought in the month of October and fattened for the ‘duck roast’ served on Christmas Day. Clothes and accessories would be bought for the maids, who lived with us.

A week before Christmas, traditional sweets like ‘adhirasam’, ‘muruku’, ‘naai unde’, kalkals and cakes are made. All of us would pitch in to help. Shopping at Commercial Street for clothes was a must! The evening before Christmas,  ‘rangolis’ were drawn from rice flour paste and decorated with flowers. The courtyard and verandahs would also have ‘kolams’ drawn by my sister and the house would smell of incense and the flowers, which were kept in the vases. Ragi and mustard were grown for the crib. We used to even have an informal crib-making competition among the cousins!

This picture was taken in ‘Clusters’ during Christmas in 2001. Those days, we didn’t have as many cameras as present and clicking group pictures was a rarity.

In the second row is my  father Jayakaran (standing first from left), my mother’s sister Suguna Raj (sitting first from left), my mother Anasuya and her other sister Sumithra Lazarus. Though my uncle (her husband Terence Lazarus sitting next to her) was working in the CISF and they would be posted in different places, they would come along with their family for Christmas without fail. My brother-in-law Raymund Joseph and nephew Siddharth are standing first and second from right respectively.

My cousin Dr Renuka Lazarus, who resides in the UK, had come down specially for the occasion. We three siblings, me, my brother Prithvi and my sister Rani Raymund are sitting in the centre. Suguna aunty’s son, Manoj, (kneeling first from right), always gave us good company.

Though they are not in the picture, my other cousins Arjun and Ajay, would join us for the holidays too. Everyone’s arrival was much anticipated.  My mother’s brother Bobby William and family also would join us for the midnight mass at the chapel of St Joseph’s Boys’ High School. The mass was followed by a feast of mutton roast, duck roast, chicken roast and Irish stew. My grandmother would cut the cake and gifts (from Santa) would be placed below the tree. On Christmas Day, we would have friends, neighbours and relatives dropping in from morning till night.

My grandmother and uncles are no more and my cousins have moved out of Bengaluru. Even though we still meet my extended family after the midnight mass and have a meal together, the experience of celebrating Christmas in ‘Clusters’ was something else.

Kavitha Jayakaran (As told to Deepa Natarajan Lobo)


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