CALCUTTA, TERI CHRISTMAS PE QURBAAN!
(Translates to: Calcutta, I Salute and Cherish the Way You
Celebrate the Universal Festival of Christmas)
By Mudar Patherya
My happiest day of the year is usually when it is 359 days old.
I could cut happiness out of the Kolkata air with a spoon on 25 December.
The winter chill is just right enough for you to wear your coat without sweat; if it was Delhi, we might have numbed into staying indoors; if it was Chennai , it would have been like any other T-shirt morning.
The light is magical – diffused, yellow and benign. When I see it slant into my 7am drawing room, I hear Vivaldi in my head.
Kolkata could well be on a ramp walk; even the poor who live on the streets will find something new to wear – even if only a long Santa cap with a cotton ball at the end – and shout a ‘Merry Christmas' at anonymous strangers.
The nostalgic will drive to the Bow Barracks music party where the standard Anglo-Indian line is ‘Come bro, dance men!'
Every Kolkatan will seek to do a 400m tawwaaf* (parikrama*) of Park Street, soak the lights, buy a Flury's pastry, take a selfie with the giant Christmas Tree alongside Park Hotel, hang out at Allen Park's live music event and go home saying ‘What fun we had…'
There is always the magic in going to the midnight mass at St Paul's Cathedral and return stirred by the power of the orchestra in a resonating cathedral.
The hoity-toity will brave the 30-minute car queue to get into Tolly Club's 24th night party where every PYT wears black, where every second dress ends above the knee and every third one is spaghetti-strapped.
The slightly older gentry will go to Tolly Club's Christmas Lunch on the lawn next afternoon where Michel in red tall boots invites everyone to dance to Mama Mia and Jambalaya.
Everyone in Kolkata – and this includes even conservative beard-flowing Muslims – will call for some raisin cake and say ‘Bhai, aapko Merry Christmas' to each other.
A number of Kolkatans will go out and touch the less-privileged – either with a gift or an experience, a perfect example of how the spirit of Burra Din can touch even the cool-hearted.
A number of families become one again around this time as their children return from their universities for the annual vacation.
This is also a day when I thank Kolkata for being a secular oasis.
Which is more than what can be said of some of the other cities in India today.
*chukkar or circumambulation
Johnny Purty of Kolkata.