Sunday, April 17, 2011

Christmas cravings in April

I once had a friend, who used to crave for Holi during Diwali. It was never the other way round. The craving was always for Holi. During Diwali. And once, I asked him the reason for this strange craving. He had a simple answer -- in the winter cold of the hills of Jharkhand, when you are outdoors, trying to light diyas, don't you miss the spring-time bucket of warm water being splashed all over you? And, when the loud firecrackers are driving you nuts, don't you wish that you had a glass of bhang to knock yourself out? After all, that is why God created the cannabis plant.  I had to defer to his superior judgment in this matter.

And that, makes me quite familiar with the idea of craving for one festival during another. Although, I had never really experienced it first hand before. Until today.

I was reading a wonderfully written newspaper article on Lent, since Easter is fast approaching. It was all about fasting and sacrifice. But, my eyes kept wandering over to an enticing picture of two perfectly baked hot cross buns on the same page. To a lot of gluttons like me, the world over, that is what Easter is all about. And then, a thought struck me. In India, which is a country of many religions, Good Friday and Easter for me, have always been the other Christian holiday. The one, that is not Christmas. And then, quite naturally, I was reminded of Christmas.

To me, Christmas was all about being home for the holidays. To a non-Christian kid in India, that is the time of the year, when your school or college sends you packing. Home. It doesn't really matter if you like John Denver or not, and it really doesn't matter if your home happens to be at the end of a long country road. In the plains. Mine incidentally, was in the mountains. But, like everyone else, I had to pack up and go home, for the winter vacations.

I remember as the bus would groan its way through the winding roads in the hills, I would see the golden sky of a typical winter evening in Jharkhand, and experience the chilly mountain air through the half open windows of the bus. Windows, that could never be properly shut, even if your life depended on it.  And, as the bus passed through the small villages, I would smell a sweet smell of smoke, that comes from burning coal with local firewood, with a liberal sprinkling of Sal leaves, that are used to start the fire. And then, I would see the beautifully decorated village churches in the distance. These were too small and underfunded to have the characteristic spire. But, you could tell that these were churches, since they had the right decorations. For that time of the year.

Christmas was all about coming back home. Enjoying a home-cooked meal. And, at night, hiding from the bone-chilling cold of the mountains under a thick and comfortable blanket. With the jackals howling in the distance, and the dogs barking back. And the wind through the Sal and Mahua trees making you aware that  being under the blanket was not so bad after all. Around that time of the year.

Years later, I was on a boat from Miami to the Bahamas. During Christmas. Supposedly, it was a cruise ship, but when you are sailing for only six hours, you are better off calling it a boat. I was on the deck, which had a DJ playing old and nostalgic songs. Songs that people like to listen to, when Christmas is around. I had my back to the stage, and I was looking at the deep blue sea, trying to spot an island or two. With Feliz Navidad on my back, Christmas was in the air. And, there were happy people around me, spreading their contagious joy. Suddenly, through the deep blue sea, I could see the tall trees of Sal and Mahua, and the winding hilly roads of Jharkhand. I could smell the sweet smell of burning firewood and coal. And, behind me, I could hear the DJ playing the all time hit, Gonna take a sentimental journey...

Today, while looking at the hot cross buns and reading about Easter, I was actually craving for Christmas. I never knew that I could crave for a festival that I don't quite observe in a religious sense. But then, Christmas does have a way of taking all of us on our very own sentimental journeys, doesn't it? I think I will have to wait for eight more months until I can make mine.


  1. And, you had Baisakhi cravings during the wintry new year :D

  2. Let's say that we always seem to crave for the things that we don't have. :-)