Fiona Fernandez: Have yourself a virtual Christmas
The era of the Christmas card is over. As we move dangerously far away from the idea of human touch to all things around, a fan relives the joy of handwritten cards
December is here. And with it, we're dying to imagine every moment of Bing Crosby's classic carol, 'It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas' even in noisy, crowded, and oh-so-balmy Bombay. Let's let you in on a little secret here: for most of our growing up years, the imagery from the lyrics worked. Of course, decades later, Michael Buble's drop-dead looks and sexy voice made us have to switch to his version. For many of us kids from the 80s, the sending out of Christmas cards via snail mail to a long list of family and friends was an annual, special ritual. In the pre-Internet era, where pop-up Santas hadn't showed up, and emoticon-plastered cards weren't a click away, this was a process that required careful execution to ensure it did its deed — to spread joy and cheer to folk closer home and across the seven seas.
By early December, we made our lists, and checked it twice [forgive the lyric-borrowing from another carol!]. Tagging along with the mother, we would head to the best 'gifts gallery' in the suburb to pick greetings cards that lined its display shelves. If we didn't break anything expensive in the store in the first five minutes, we'd be rewarded with the important task of having to choose cards. Standing on the tip of our toes, we'd crane our necks to scout for the best. "Nothing too shiny, or with glitter; poor Uncle Maurice will have gold dust on his face before he can realise it!" the mother would caution with a half-smile, adding, "Check if it's made by a NGO…at least, it'll go for a good cause." Those were also the days when UNICEF, HelpAge and many other cause-driven organisations were making inroads into the greeting card industry.
Once home, the longlist and address book [it would put even Santa's list to shame] would be brought out, and duties of writing wishes and addressing them, complete with postage stamps et al, would be assigned. We took our job very seriously, and there was no room for undecipherable handwriting, strikethroughs or bad spacing in between letters and lines of the address. And if by some unexpected twist in the Christmas build-up plot, a glossy, gorgeous Christmas card from an overseas relative reached us before we mailed out theirs, it would require a change of plan. The bar had to be raised. The cool-card relative would be moved into a higher category [cards with a higher price, more stuff going on, on the card…get the drift, right?]. Assignment complete, and after the three dozen envelopes were left to dry overnight, the stash would be dropped off at 'air mail only' or 'inland' marked post boxes at the post office. By the second week, when more cards reached our doorstep by 'Postman kaka' [they never had a name, no?], we'd tie up a string against one side of wall in the living room, to display them. How it would make our hearts sing!
Cut to the present. The ritual seems to be having a fadeout, sadly. We're too busy clicking thumbs up signs, tagging 'likes' to others' Christmas wishes, or photo-shopping our smug faces against Canadian snow clad Christmas trees in our e-cards.
Bob Dylan may have never been inspired from this memory when he penned the iconic, 'The Times They Are A-Changin',' and yet it seems like a suitable song to wrap up this nostalgia-soaked pre-Christmas column. Err…and you may click if you 'liked' it.
mid-day's Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city's sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org