As a child, Charles Dickens’ novella, “The Christmas Carol” was a riddle to me. I tried to imagine wicked Scrooge and his Christmas spirits-the Past, Present and Future. It was always amusing to read about his transformation. I wondered if a Christmas elf sprinkled some magic powder on Scrooge during the dream. As I spent my December evenings gazing at the setting sun by the Khejri tree (Rajasthan’s state tree and now my Christmas Tree), I tried to decode Scrooge’s final statement in the novella, “I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future”. How does one keep the Christmas spirit all year long? As the whole world was beginning to prepare for Christmas, I was in a place where people had not even heard of the word, “Christianity” leave alone the festival of Christmas. With no Christmas tress, tingling bells, glowing candles or a church in sight, it was hard for me to even imagine the Christmas season. I had to find a different way of imagining and celebrating the season.
Living in rural India for over three months, it was time for me to contemplate on my experience and how has it shaped the way I look at things and people. I realized that sharing, giving and love is not a momentarily phenomenon that comes in only during the Christmas season but something that should exist throughout the year.
Every house that I visit during my fieldwork in the villages has been a unique experience. Villagers have always welcomed me with, with some chai (tea), biscuits, bhakri (local bread) or curd. At every community activity, people would generously bring out buttermilk, chocolates, namkeen (salted snacks), milk sweets or fruits for the entire team. I fondly remember two days: Diwali dinner I shared with my colleague’s family and a farewell dinner for our volunteers. These two days were beautiful, allowing me to enjoy a close-knit meal and make me believe that each of these homes wanted me to partake in their simple rural lives and culture. These generous acts of giving helped me realize that despite the lack of Christmas symbols, the Christmas spirit has been alive through these small acts of generosity. It has brought in a deep connection to experience the Christmas emotions of love, brotherhood and the art of sharing and giving.
As Christmas draws near and I am preparing to spend Christmas day with my family in Goa, I look at my Christmas tree at the pond hoping that this village experience has made me believe in the art of giving and sharing not only during the Christmas season but throughout the year. And even though people really do not know about Christmas they have manifested the true meaning of Christmas even if it is a small cup of tea. Probably the riddle of “The Christmas Carol” has been solved. As I take home my Christmas presents of food grains given by the villagers for my family, it has made be believe that Christmas is not about a glossy and shinny presents but about love, generosity and brotherhood displayed through the ‘art of giving and sharing’.
Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas. May the Christmas spirit of sharing, giving, peace and love be with you throughout the year.