As December sets in, it’s inevitable for Yuletide imagery to emerge out of the woodwork. Nostalgic memories, photographs, chuckle, Christmas lunch, and off course, carol singing come together in a happy frame. But like everything else that has been at the mercy of our city’s changing demographics where a commercial slant lends itself to almost everything we touch, Christmas too, hasn’t been spared.
We’ve attempted to note down a few elements integral to the season in the city that stand at the cusp of being phased out, completely.
Carol singing: There was a time when this meant a heady, often hilarious cacophony and bonding, as different groups would visit homes across suburbs, Santa in tow, to ring in Xmas cheer, a much-needed reminder that the season was here. Nowadays, the concept is confined to Christian neighbourhoods, singers are far and few, as one has to choke listening to unsavoury renditions belted out by hastily assembled unrehearsed groups inside malls.
Tailor: This breed, we suspect, is fast fading away. There was a time when patterns — torn from glossy ‘foreign’ magazines brought in by well-meaning cousins and aunts in the US, Dubai or Australia would be shoved down throats of unsuspecting, but committed tailors tucked in every suburb, two months in advance. “We must go immediately after Diwali,” mothers would guide their daughters, to ensure they didn’t miss the bus, and, a chance to grab maximum accolades at midnight mass. Train rides, bus changes, auto trails wouldn’t come in the way to nab these popular draws. This journalist recalls aunts, cousins and relatives trudging off from Malad, Bandra and Crawford Market to get that perfect satiny-laced dress, with padded shoulders, box pleats, mutton-leg sleeves et al. “They’ll give you a good fit, my girl,” would be the reassurance one would get to toe the line, and follow suit. And he never had a name, just the suburb from where he did business. Not anymore. Easily available ready-to-wear and changing ideas (some for the better!) have swept him out of the scene.
Santa Claus: His existence has taken the worst beating. From the cuddly, genial grandfatherly figure, we loved to imagine flying into Mumbai’s balconies in his magical sleigh, he’s been reduced to an emaciated, often scary-looking, disinterested version, seated inside everyone’s favourite hang out space; you guessed right — the mall. Gone were the days when loads of thought went into who would play Santa — but in this day and age, he could very well be your security guard, the lift man, or anyone in the area ready to earn a fast buck, and who can say “Ho! Ho! Ho” to a bunch of hurried shoppers.
The live band: Weddings and Christmas time (both seasons crisscross each other) meant these guys were in big business. But with increasing costs, lack of time and enthusiasm, there’s very little trace of the live band. Enter the slick, gelled-hair DJ, and his brand of often, headache-inducing syth-inspired tracks as the only sound that one must hear at a party, family function, wedding or Christmas get together. He’s here to stay. Period.
Christmas’ spirit is all about the bonhomie; these little baubles of delight add life to the festival, and the city’s unique cosmopolitan fabric. Surely, Mumbai can do better to ensure these lights don’t go out.
Do your bit — make that list, and head to Crawford Market before the Xmas trees run out!
— The writer is Features Editor, MiD DAY
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