Walking around in London, Ananthanarayanan suddenly knows why he feels cheated.
It was entirely his fault. As a child, he had read so much about Christmas in foreign countries, with films beaming families heaving with the weight of cheer and filial joy. However, it struck him that all these films were eventually about Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas itself. He had been fooled for years, into thinking that festivals in foreign, mostly white lands were somehow any different, or more cheerful than the ones in his country.
(Yes, yes. He is aware that India has a lot of Christians. But Christmas strikes him as foreign. He shudders. He must sound like a bigot. He likes to maintain that Christmas is as Indian a festival as any other.)
This was a well kept secret. Christmas was not as cheerful as Christmas Eve. As the day progressed, the greyness of the city seemed to drag its feet into the windows of households. After 10 AM, the enthusiasm died. People discovered that they had spent more on gifts than others had spent on them. They discovered that their loved ones thought they had body odour, were too fat or had thoughtlessly bought clothes with stripes. As an outsider, he felt he read people’s expressions far better. He was more objective. Plus, he was a Tamil man. He was born to be objective.
The shops were closed. People couldn’t even distract themselves with office work.
Sure, there were the famed Christmas lunches. But the excesses of the week before Christmas eventually catch up, and the plate looks too full. Clothes bought in the November sale don’t fit. The other trouble is that there really is nothing like a free lunch. It comes with families. As Ananthanarayanan had discovered the previous year, people were more likely to hate their families right after Christmas than just before.
But once in a while, he heard the echo of a mildly drunk laugh. It strikes him that people who are happy on Christmas are likely to be happy all the bloody time, anyway. They don’t need festivals to be happy. He envies them. And wishes he could slap them. All of them. Bloody happy bastards. All of them.