Greetings one & all

Christmas is the only religious festival I celebrate in my home but without any religious overtones. It meant nothing to me in my school and college years in India. Though some of my teachers in school were Bengali Christians and I went to a Christian College all I knew about it was, it was the ‘baraa din’ (big day) for the Christians and they went to church at midnight.

It was in England in Welwyn Garden city with an entirely White Christian population that I got attached to Christmas. I had to take a train every morning to London. I found myself in a compartment with five or six English men and women who spent the hour in train to practice singing Christmas carols. I soon picked up some carols, notably: Stilly Night, Holy night, Holly and the Ivy, Jingle Bells and some others. I began to sing with them.

They invited me to join them on Christmas eve to do the rounds of homes. I became the blackman with a lantern who brought good luck. So we went from door to door, sang a carol or two, were invited indoors and offered wine and some money. After my return home to India, I began to celebrate Christmas with taped carols, Christmas turkey and pudding. None of my guests were Christians.
One reason I chose to spend my Christmas vacations in Goa was the Christmas atmosphere of Bogmalo beach where I stayed. Bogmalo is a Christian village with its own small church. Mornings begin with pealing of church bells. When the faithful are gathered in the church, they sing Christian hymns. In the evenings, the hotel loud speakers relay Christmas carols while guests are busy taking in the gentle sea-breeze. Boys and girls from some school come to the hotel to sing carols. They ring in one’s ears while one sleeps.

I don’t go to Goa any more as I am too old to travel. But I keep the tradition of celebrating Christmas as I have been doing for the past half-a-century or more. So I end my Christmas greetings to you with Beggar’s Rhyme:
Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat;
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat;
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do,
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, God bless you.
The year gone by was perhaps the most eventful since we became an Independent nation; it determined the shape of things to come, for our future generations. The choice was clear: either we become a Hindu ‘rashtra’ or we remain a secular state. On May 16, 2009, the people of India gave their verdict: they wanted the Gandhi-Nehru legacy to continue and threw the main contenders — BJP and its allies which had gained strength on mandir-masjid dispute in the dust bin of history.

Heidi of Hamburg
Heidi is a well-to-do German lady living on a farmhouse in the suburgs of Hamburg. She is passionately fond of horses. She has three, which she exercises herself. To get a second-hand look at the world beyond Germany she agreed to take foreign visitors round the city, its land marks, eateries and taverns. That is how I first met Heidi, when she came to the airport to receive my wife and me. That is over 25 years ago. Since then she has been coming to India every winter, escorting chosen groups of German tourists.
Although Heidi has been all over India, she has given her heart to Rajasthan. Some winters she hired Mewar breed of horses and rode across the desert stopping in remote village up to Delhi. Tourists spots like Delhi, Varanasi, Agra, Ajanta, Ellora and South Indian temples were too touristic for her taste. Of the many places I suggested to her the only one which passed her test was Orcha in Madhya Pradesh.
This year Heidi has further involved herself in Rajasthan. She organised a Ravanbhata music competition at Mahrajgarh Fort in Jodhpur. The chief performers of Ravanbhata — a two-stringed sarangi — are Bhopas who sing the epic tale of Pabuji, a 14th century Rajput warrior. How more Indian can a German be?

Hun mainee Agya deo
For 10 years Jarnail Singh and Karnail Singh had been best of bosome friends and passed their matric together from a Amritsar village high school. After passing matric, Jarnail joined army and Karnail joined Punjab police. They met after 15 long years, coincidently when both had come on leave to their village. Karnail took Jarnail to his house and they talked their hearts out over many bottles of desi liquor and big chunks of lamb legs. The party ended long after midnight when Jarnail asked Karnail to give him ‘agya’ now (ie permission to leave) (Hun mainu agya bhi deo).
Karnail suddenly jumped menacingly at Jarnail Singh with a big kirpan in his hand. To his horror Jarnail learnt that Agya (kaur) was the name of Karnail’s wife.
(Contributed by Jaidev Bajaj, Pathankot)

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