Sunday, December 16, 2012
Oberoi Clarkes at Shimla
The Mall in the Snow
The Toy Train towards Shimla
I studied in a Convent School--and thanks to the Nuns really loved the Spirit of Christmas.Our School would close for the Christmas Holidays--but before that we'd have our Parents Day function---and we'd all participate in different Skits drawn from and depicting the life of Jesus Christ.Not just that, I was also a regular visitor to the School Chapel--I loved the peace of that small place and would just spend some time there during my Lunch break.Christmas however was a big thing in our home.True to his secular thinking Daddy would insist that we celebrate every Festival there is in India with the right spirit---so a huge Lunch of a Roast--either Mutton or Chicken with all the Trimmings marked the Event for us.There would be a roaring fire in the Drawing room Fireplace and we'd drink our huge Cups of Soup along with Baked Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes that Daddy roasted in the embers of the fire.The smell of Wood smoke and the light from the Fire turned the Living Room into a warm,cosy room for us--and we'd spend time trying to identify and pick out various shapes in the shadows the flickering flames drew on the walls. We'd make ourselves cosy on the Carpet with huge,heavy Cotton stuffed Quilts called "Razaaees" and soft Pillows--spending the afternoons and often even the nights sleeping on the carpeted floor!!
Our Christmas used to mostly be rainy---for there would be heavy Snowfall in the Mountains and as a result the Plains would be bitterly cold--the Rain turning the Weather even colder---and the ground slushy.Once instead of Rain we had Hail----and looking out of our Living Room window we saw a carpet of sparkling White balls covering every inch of the Garden--the Moon that sailed into view later in the night turning every nook and cranny of the Garden surrounding the house into a Silvery Paradise in it's iridiscent light!!That is when Carols like "Old King Wenceslas" made perfect sense---I could imagine him going out in the Snow and the Page stepping in his larger footsteps!!My favourite Songs however were "Jingle Bells" and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" but the closest we could get to these was to sing these ourselves--for the Weather made the Short Wave reception on the Radio precarious--we'd get only broken bits of Carols and Songs thanks to the gusty Winds blowing away around the house.The story of "Silent Night" caught my mind---and the haunting strains of the Carol itself captured my imagination and it along with "Once in Royal David's City" were my favourite Carols.Initially we'd play these 78 rpm records on our Record Player--but after a while leaving the warmth of our snug cocoon became daunting so it was easier to sing these ourselves from wherever we had nested ourselves in the huge room!!
Sudhir too had always loved Christmas and much to the amusement of his parents he'd dress up in his favourite Suits and just take a stroll along Bombay's Chowpatty with his friends---and later once he got his licence drive around town spiffily dressed.After we got married we spent our first Christmas listening to Christmas Carols and Songs at night--and these became "our" favourites--carefully preserved and stored in preference of which ones came first and which ones next!!Christmas for both of us and later our daughters also meant an unending supply of Plum Cake from the Taj---Sudhir could literally eat this by the Kilos!!Each year we also bought a Cake for his sister Kunda who relished it as much as he did---the expressions on their faces as they savoured it was a treat to see!!!We have spent many Christmas Vacations in the North---the one that I really remember was when we took our daughters to Shimla.We stayed in the same Suite we had for our Honeymoon at Oberoi Clarkes and though it did not Snow it was bitterly cold.The Sitting Room and Bedroom had Fireplaces and the covered Balcony faced the beautiful Valley sloping down to the Bus Stand way below us.The Valley was dotted with Conifers and Cottages and steep Paths snaking up and down the Slopes and the Sunlight glinting on the windows made these look like Diamonds.As the setting Sun began turning the Valley into a shadowy misty place in the Twilight the entire picture changed magically.The lingering rays of the setting Sun turned into Banners of a deep orange gradually getting Violet and lengthening into deeper Purple tints as the Sun slowly sank behind the Mountains.The Valley and the Slopes were clothed in a misty veil of half light and Street and Cottage lights began twinkling like Stars in the darkening velvet of the night.The sight of the twinkling,magical Stars carpeting the Slopes and valley was a breathtaking sight--they seemed like they were suspended between Heaven and Earth--bewitching and unforgettably beautiful to see!!
Sudhir and I both shared a deep love of Nature--and have been very lucky to chance upon such moments that we could preserve in our hearts and mind--and later reminisce about fondly.Today these moments remain but he is no longer there and while I'm slowly getting accustomed to his absence, my heart still aches for him, specially on such occasions.Since he passed away I've just not played our usual Cassettes of our favourite Carols and nor have I been upto going to the Patisserie for the Plum Cake--it just isn't the same anymore!!