Tuesday, December 26, 2006



Today was the first time we have celebrated Christmas in India. This was a new twist, since usually we are the "Indians" doing Christmas in America and not the "Americans" doing Christmas in India. This time around we are spared the super-sized vulgar marketing efforts to stimulate consumption on all mental levels. Instead, It feels like I am more in control of enjoying the holiday at my own discretion, and also without the stigma of being of the wrong faith, etc. Our nanny/maid Felicia is actually Christian, and has the day off. We hit her off with a little something. She left at 8 this morning to go to church and celebrate with her friends. Her absence today makes us appreciate her even more. Naya now is now 2 for 1 - two Christmas' in the U.S. and one in Delhi. I got her a kiddy drum set and an Indian Barbie.

To top off the day, Mitra and I had our first Hindi lesson with my 12 year old niece Ananya's tutor. We asked him to devote 25% of the time to writing and learning the alphabet and 75% to conversation. He mentioned that there's a hybrid slang called Hinglish. I also found out that many of the words I currently use in Hindi are oversimplified Delhi/Punjabi slang that I've absorbed over the years.

On the other hand, although we did not have a tree's worth of sales circulars showing up in our mail each day, we did manage to find a tree that seems to be a tropical-evergeen combo which was well suited to our wish of having the appropriate accoutrement. Santa is really big here, the people who walk in between cars at red lights vending a variety of products such as novels, toys, newspapers, dust cloths, etc. suddenly all seem to have santa hats for sale. Also, In the larger markets there are men walking around dressed in Santa outfits, their faces covered by a plastic mask which looks rather disturbing.

They just seem to be standing around though, not trying to collect money like the Santas in the U.S. who raise funds for The Salvation Army by ringing a bell next to a donation pot or simply trying to direct your attention to a store. As in the cities back in the states however, all this only places more emphasis on the stark contrast of haves and have-nots.

We hosted our first party last night, which doubled as a housewarming/Christmas eve affair. The crowd was about 40% family, 40% Work folks, and 20% who didn't fit either category. We partied with some of the Sesame Street folks the night before, which left me needing to stay in bed a bit late the next morning.

Maybe it's just our fate, but instead of averaging a party every few weeks in DC, we sometimes end up with 3 in a night and at least 2 per weekend here it seems. I think it's just that time of year, I hear things calm down after the winter months. Last week was one of the most auspicious in the year for Hindu marriages, and Delhi allegedly has at least one night in that week where there are over 30,000 weddings happening with the rest of the days not far behind.


It wasn't terrible and I did NOT miss the onslaught of circulars and commercials and lines at the mall but somehow, Christmas did not feel the same in India. And it shouldn't.

Still, allow me to mush for a few lines about how much I missed my parents and brothers and the weirdly, wacky, tacky gifts under the tree. (A sampling of years past: root beer maker, two rabbits and a waist-high giraffe picked up from a garage sale.) Our opening of gifts was sweetened by Naya's signature: "Ohhh my goooodness. Look at thaaat."

I wonder how Indian emigres to the states survived those first few years without Diwali, Durga Puja, Bihu. At least here, we had the scary Santas patrolling the markets. And nobody says the politically correct "Happy Holidays" here. I got a text message from my cousin wishing me a "Marry Xmas" though and have heard "Happy Christmas" so many times that it almost sounds normal. Oh and I found pumpkin pie and apple pie at the Oberoi. Ken and Carmen's maid also made a wonderful stuffing with walnuts, mushrooms and celery - almost as good as my father's...


Regardless of where we are, keep in mind how privileged we are to be reading things in this medium, or being able to read for that matter. Have a good one!

by the way, some more pictures are here.


Madhusmita said...

Merry Christmas guys. Great pictures! Mitra you look like a bhodra mohila with your phoot and sindoor. I was surprised to see Rishika. She's my classmate from St. Mary's. Small world, eh?

Sumathi said...

Um, what's up with all the Santa hats?! You all are bad Hindus celebrating Xmas! And why is there a plane at Madhukar's wedding?

Mayank Austen Soofi said...

Hey, HAPPY Christmas!!
With love,
(One of the 20% guests)

j said...

Merry Christmas!

La La Land said...

I giggle at the line "We hit her off with a little something." So mysterious and weird. Nitin, maybe you know what you mean, but I sure don't! Happy holidays to the whole family!

Shivali Shah said...

Been reading your blog- wow it is SO much more efficient than answering everyone’s questions on how things are going there. I love it. A lot of the things you and Nitin have written resonate Deep and mine’s own experiences - or would resonate in cases in which we have not actually experienced- like with the Santas- creepy!!! The creepiness really comes out with the photo- you can’t quite convey all of it with words!!!!! That one Santa in your photo looks like he is ready to rob a bank…at least that is the feeling of someone who is used to seeing U.S. Santas. (No offense to the Union of Indian Santas intended)

Shivali Shah

Shivali Shah said...

Can we please get a picture of the Indian Barbie? I have seen a few of them while in India and always like seeing the outfits they put them in.

So I’m in Bahrain for a couple of months and was shopping in one of the souqs (markets) when I saw this and wondered if it was OK to get for Naya. But now that I read your post and see that you two have gone and bought Naya an Indian Barbie, then hopefully you won’t mind when I give Naya a Barbie in abaya (black overgarment worn by Muslim women for modesty- covers everything but face, hands and feet).

I was tickled when I saw this – more so when I saw that it was a knock-off Barbie made in China by well meaning Chinese manufacturers who don’t know the first thing about an abaya. The abaya is actually an OVER garment, but this poor Barbie has NOTHING on underneath. She is not very modest I must say.

I’m sure living in Delhi, Naya has seen women in abaya by now.
I also have Barbie stickers for Naya which have an assortment of women with hijab, abaya, but no niqab.