When In Full Bloom Magazine introduced the Winter theme to me, I didn’t know where to begin. Having lived in a tropical city (Mumbai, India) for 15+ years, I have not experienced cold weather in a very long time. It gets a bit nippy here for a few days, but nothing to brag about at all.
Now the struggle to describe a season I’ve not fully experienced in a long time was pretty real & I could do with some inspiration.
That evening after I got home from work, I poured myself a glass of red wine and began to play some music. In the middle of many other things that I was doing, I also messaged ten friends asking, “What does winter mean to you?
The weather was hot, the food was cold and halfway through my second glass of wine, a favorite carol began to play & like magic, memories of a Christmas long-forgotten began to reveal themselves to me. At the bottom of my burgundy glass was the story I had been looking for all day.
I could visualize it, feel it, repeat it. Like it all happened yesterday. (The things two glasses of wine can do).
Sitting in my apartment in Mumbai , I begin to click the keys on my laptop.
The year is 1999, a cold night in my dusty old town (Bhusawal, India). A 13-year-old version of me is standing in the living room of a big white house, beaming and swaying as I sang along ‘Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.’ Among the many Carols I knew, there was something quite special about this one. I don’t know what it was, Maybe the melody of the song? The lyrics? or the fact that everyone smiled when they sang it together? Even today, the resounding vibe of this carol makes my heart warm and mushy like a giant marshmallow melting over the hot campfire.
I used to go caroling with the older boys and girls from church. We rode on our bicycles from house to house, spreading the Christmas cheer. Our cycle bells were our constant companions as we signaled people and stray dogs out of the way in the dark by lanes of my little town.
There was no other kid my age in the caroling crew. Many parents wouldn’t allow their early teens to cycle late into the evenings. With much convincing, cajoling & an impeccable display of responsible behavior on my part, my parents permitted me to join the gang.
On the winter nights, I often saw the older boys and girls hold hands, smile at each other, and even sneak in a kiss whenever possible. There was something magical in those nights. Everyone always seemed to be falling in love.
As I am typing these memories, I am reminded of the countless things we all did over the Christmas Holidays. They were 20 days of celebrations systematically planned & each day was different from the other.
We played sports till we were exasperated, competed in a fancy-dress competition where the wackiest ideas came to life. I remember being painted with talcum powder to resemble a statue and standing with a massive pot on my head for nearly 30 mins without moving an inch. Thank God I won!
We acted in plays, went for picnics, danced together, and even participated in a winter pageant. One beautiful girl from the parish would be titled ‘The Winter Queen’ and all the boys wanted to know who she would be.
For a place of its size, Bhusawal certainly had a lot going on during Christmas.
There was excitement, nervousness, some chaos, and lots of laughter. With the new dresses and decorations and the smell of the yummiest homemade Christmas cakes, we would all prepare for the shindig of the year with great enthusiasm.
My grandmother believed in making Christmas an immersive family experience, and so no matter what, on a designated day before the Christmas festivities commenced, she invited all her children over (10 of them) with their kids (about 20 of us) to gather under the same roof and prepare Christmas sweets together.
Eating yummy treats on Christmas was a highlight for me but eating homemade ones and making memories with my family inevitably made them even more special.
When I come to think of it, I may have grown up in a town where civilization hasn’t properly reached even today. Although, the celebrations and merry times found their way to us long ago.
I feel that’s the beauty and rarity of small towns. Traditions, festivals, and the little joys that elude the bigger cities always find a place of importance here. Everybody knows everybody & the whole community is like your extended family much like Gilmore Girls!
Over the years, so much has changed. Families moved out to bigger cities and never came back. Some people grew old & some people stopped caring. I got lost in the hustle and bustle of modern-day life and just like that time flew by.
Sometimes it feels like I am still living there & at other times it’s like a beautiful distant memory.
Today, as I sit back and read the messages I got from my friends in the COVID era, it’s incredible how most of them have said that winter to them means making ”Memories”. It makes me hopeful that the world will heal, and we will all be making new memories someday soon.
The ability to never lose hope and always believe in a better tomorrow is a quality of mankind that enthuses me the most. I believe, there’s no occasion other than Christmas that truly embodies this spirit.
Cold days with colder nights and warm homes decorated in red & white.
We are all going through a tough fight , but snuggles from my boo make it feel alright.
So, here’s hoping all my readers have a Holly Jolly Christmas and a safe 2021.
@nameewrites – with Love from Bhusawal.
This story was written for In Full Bloom Magazine. The magazine features many talented writers from around the world .The lovely girls from Edinburgh were kind enough to allow a novice writer to be featured. Do check out their page for more amazing articles.