Aditya Sinha: A Christmas present for the nation
I hope that we'll find under our metaphoric Christmas tree some hope that India will return to the peaceful co-existence we took for granted
A childhood in England ensured that Christmas was the main holiday in my life. This seems in contrast to the festivals I now celebrate: My kind of Holi revelry used to scare the pants off of my in-laws; I spent decades thickly polluting the lower atmosphere with dubious fireworks; Durga Puja was a time devoted to the worship of goddesses; and the last three years of Chhath puja, I have fasted and prayed to various forms of the sun (rising, setting, etc). Hindu festivals are mysterious in their comings and goings, due to the Hindu calendar and lunar cycle (also, the priests are a pain in the neck, inserting an extra day when you're not paying attention); it feels like we glide into - and out of -Hindu holidays. Christmas, however, is clearly defined as 24-25 December, despite attempts to stretch it at one end with Boxing Day and at the other end with the lurid commerce of 'Black Friday' (the day after USA's Thanksgiving).
What's great about childhood is that you don't remember how sad the tree or decorations might have been, but instead, what joy and fun and cheer it brought
This dependable annual event helped my immigrant parents make it a special day for us, by putting up a Christmas tree and placing presents under the tree with a subterfuge that's difficult to associate with Dr and Mrs Sinha. What's great about childhood is that you don't remember how sad the tree or decorations might have been, but instead, what joy and fun and cheer it brought us all on Christmas morning. When it was my time to put presents for my young children, we got a fancy tree at Jor Bagh market, so that they too built a warm memory.
My adolescent Christmases in New York meant giant Christmas trees in piazzas and ice skating, always a great excuse for a clumsy boy to hold a girl's hand as she guided him around the rink. High school meant Christmas Eve at my friend Craig's house, where a spiked eggnog was the first time I ever got drunk.
As a schoolboy in England, we were returning to class from the chapel, when one boy pointed out that there could not possibly be a "St Pinkoo". (Yes, that was my nickname. My parents were not ones to either remember my formal name or to refrain from my home-use nickname. Both English and American children found it funny sounding, which it is, frankly.) St Pinkoo was not something I mulled about, as I had other things on my mind, like the moon landing, etc.
I liked Christmas carols; the singing, the gusto, the harmony and the transcendent spirit carols successfully spread. So it was with horror that I recently read online about some missionaries who were arrested in Madhya Pradesh, and their vehicle set on fire, because they were out in the countryside, caroling. Why in the world would anyone victimise a caroler? It seems as wicked a deed as any. The comments by usual suspects explained it: The Bajrang Dal terrorised the missionaries because the latter were engaged in "conversation" (presumably they meant conversion). I wonder if the geniuses who comprise the Bajrang Dal understand the difference between conversion and caroling. And even if they did, they turned 'Joy to the world' into something altogether sinister.
This sort of criminality and hooliganism in our public life must cease. (And don't give me the "What about the missionaries?" nonsense; if you have the spine or the moral capital, then go reconvert at least one tribal in Jharkhand or Chattisgarh.) It has made me yearn for the nostalgia of peaceful co-existence that we took for granted in our country. I wondered why it is that so many people still roar with approval at their 'tough' government; but then I last week saw how the CBI court threw out the 2G scam case. The government deliberately did not present a strong case. So much for 'toughness' against the blight of corruption.
Some say the current government was voted in to deliver development and governance, which would fatten our bank balances. That has not happened for me. I got drunk at a party recently where a drunk wealth manager thought he could explain how the dots of higher economic growth were being connected by demonetisation, GST and bank recapitalisation; I was unimpressed. He seemed to think that he knew best what India needed; that it needed expert management, and not the emotional decision-making of politicians. It was ironic that his 'tough' leader was making emotive appeals of the worst kind when it looked like his home state might electorally slip out of his hand.
Today, when you wake up, I hope that we'll find under our metaphoric Christmas tree some hope that soon enough, India will be rid of its nightmare. Advance the parliamentary election to November, oh Great Leader Krampus. And to the rest of you, a Merry Christmas.
Aditya Sinha's crime novel, The CEO Who Lost His Head, is available now. He tweets @autumnshade. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org