This article featured in The New Indian Express Saturday, when I had newly stumbled upon my long-lost love - writing!!
Santa Claus and Tooth Fairy were visiting us all the while when recently all of a sudden they seemed to permanently vanish into thin air, well almost, had it not been for my little daughter………….
It is the time of the year again when there is goodwill and cheer around. Blue sky without a hint of grey and the golden sunshine raise the spirits of one and all. The deciduous trees have begun shedding off their year-long green attire while many of them are already standing bare, shorn of their jewels. There is a nip in the air and the children move around wrapped in woollens, without any cares. For the exams are far away. For the gifts are about to flow in. For Santa Claus is on his way……
My six-year old came in hopping, jubilant and restless. “I wish Santa gives something special this time too,” he chirped and then after a pause announced emphatically “I have been a good boy all through.” He was looking at me for an approving nod while I was thinking of the show of muscle power he had had the other day with his best friend. It had ended with the two exchanging blows and “We’re not friends any more” for the umpteenth time. I let bygones be bygones and instead of raking up the past I said gently “You need to wait till Christmas.”
Advaita went off trotting, his “Jingle bells, jingle bells” ringing in the air as he went down to the lawn. Two days to go, and Santa was not yet ready with “her” gifts. It has been me who has donned the role of secret Santa over the years. And over the years I have sought the help of Santa when uninteresting vegetables have to be stuffed into my son’s reluctant mouth, or he has to be sent off to bed at nine much against his wishes. “Santa visits only the good children with his stock” has been the year-long refrain. My little one has revolted over many matters and quite often Santa has come to my rescue. Now that Santa’s visit was round the corner, all my little promises to my son are flashing back to me. Fortunately, “Santa visits only the good boys, not the naughty ones”, “Santa has a notebook where disobedient children don’t feature.” and other mild threats were not taken lightly since where gifts are concerned, Advaita seldom took a chance His temper tantrums too plunge to a low in December.
As I went about the household chores, a thin voice rang out loud. “Is Santa Claus really there?” For a second I froze and then I peeped down from the balcony where I had been fussing over the big stocking that had to be dusted, for Christmas was nearing. Down in the lawn, my son sat in the midst of a group of children. The vital question hung in the air, but before long the one who had thrown it had been cornered by the faithful majority. “How did I receive my Beyblade?” my son questioned innocently. “And how did my crown come in our stocking?” a four-year old girl asked. “And who do you think will know that I love chocolates more than Beyblades and leave for me boxes of them every year? My parents dislike my eating chocolates, they would never do that.” This was from the group leader, a seven-year old. Under the deluge of questions that strongly supported Santa’s existence, “Is Santa Claus really there?” drowned quietly. I could not thank enough the little ones for their unshakeable faith in Santa. After all, apart from dropping gifts and spreading joy around, he has made my life a little less of a struggle, considering my six-year old is the least cooperative during mealtimes, excepting when Santa is remembered. I realize I’ll have to make a quick visit to the nearby store before it gets too late and fresh doubts about Santa spring up in Advaita’s mind. Every year, Santa has been filling up the stocking with the most interesting gifts and every year I have been introducing new vegetables in the menu during Christmas time.
The other day my son came in with a clouded face and knitted eyebrows. “Tell me a secret,” he almost whispered. As I waited, wondering what was coming my way, he blurted out “All this while, were YOU leaving the Christmas gifts in the stocking, not Santa Claus?”
Little Advaita is now nine years old.
The truth had to come out some day – I just hoped I had not gone overboard.
“And Tooth Fairy too never visited?!.....” He was barely audible by now. Was he disappointed? Was his world of Santa Claus and Tooth Fairy crumbling down too fast or too early? Was it the end of innocence for him? Would he ever enjoy the moral stories I spun for him when he went to bed in night, saying they were real-life incidents from Santa’s life?
As I stood unsure of what I should say, I wondered how many mothers in the world have been caught lying by their young children. But wait a minute. Had I been lying? Not really. I was no longer tongue-tied. The words flowed out effortlessly. “There is the world where we all live our life, which is there for everyone to see and then there is the imaginary world tucked away in the secret recesses of our minds where Santa Claus and Tooth Fairy keep visiting until we are ready to let them free for the younger children all over the world waiting for them.”
“Well Mom, I think you are right. But let not Diya know about this. Santa should keep showering her with gifts every year.” He was whispering again. In the next room, my little daughter was playing with the xylophone she had dug out of the stocking this Christmas, blissfully unaware of the conspiracy just hatched between her mother and brother. Five years on, she might come to me with an equally clouded face and the same questions. Will my reply be any different? Time will tell.