Friday, December 25, 2009

A joyous Christmas






Christmas this year has hit a high in Chennai. By early December, several shops had colourful balloons, stars, Santa caps and masks on display for sale. Some of these are being sold at traffic junctions, the youngsters selling the merchandise themselves donning the caps.

It’s perhaps been quite a long time since newspapers had it so good – most of the mainline dailies are flooded with advertisements. Most of them pertain to some super sale or another, there are also pictures and write-ups about women who bake homemade cakes for sale.

Vincent D’Souza, who started the Mylapore Festival some years ago and went on to trigger the Madras Day/Week celebrations, has now a third feather in his cap. He has been the catalyst in organising a Christmastime festival in the area around the San Thome basilica.

Fortunately, the monsoon seems to have disappeared and one hopes it doesn’t make an appearance again this year – we’ve had enough and more of rain. The roads are so bad that you hate driving; motorcyclists are almost petrified of skidding and falling and getting killed. Corporation officials say the roadwork will start once the rains have stopped and the monsoon has passed. But the big question remains: why does this happen every year? Why can’t the Chennai resident have good roads throughout the year? Why do roads have to be re-laid time and again? It just shows how shoddy the work is each time and there is no doubt that contractors are happy with the quality of work they do because every time a road is re-laid there is an opportunity to make money. It is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in our city, state and country.

Coming back to Christmas, I was invited to a Christmas party for children put up by Spring into Reading. And during the time I was there, it was an absolute delight to watch the children so eager and excited at the prospect of making colourful balloons and generally sharing fun and joy. When you watch children playing and enjoying themselves, you get to know what unalloyed fun is all about. I always feel that teachers are a fortunate lot – not only do they have an opportunity to mould the lives of others, but can also participate in such activity with innocent, gay abandon. With children, every day is different and there is always one surprise or the other waiting.

As I took some pictures, I suddenly remembered my childhood days, when digital cameras were not around to get pictures taken so easily, when activity centres for kids like the one I was in weren’t around. Yet, most of my generation have great memories of growing up – of games played in gullies, on the street, on playgrounds, in homes, on staircases, on terraces… There were no summer camps in those days. Just summer holidays – spent playing indoor or outdoor games, reading books, going on long walks or for the occasional movie, eating puchkas at roadside corners, sometimes (mostly) eying pretty young things, hoping you’d see them more often. Hmmm. Are the children of today missing something? I would say yes.

In any case, the faces I saw at the Spring into Reading activity centre were bright and cheerful, full of the joy of life. The pictures say everything. You don’t even need captions. Well, the children were being taught to blow balloons and form them into different shapes and patterns. Oftentimes, you wish you were a child all over again. And this was one such time I felt so.

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