After Santa made an exclusive, VIP appearance, the festivities got started on the evening of December 24th. Child Haven’s tradition is to decorate the towering “evergreen” tree and place candles underneath it at midnight.
This year we did it a little earlier.
Then little Santa dropped by to delight the children.
Christmas Day began with dancing. I tell you, Indians know how to set up a killer sound system with floor speakers and an audio mixer.
Dancing with verve seems to be a cultural stamp. Enthusiasm is not the only piece, but a penchant for storytelling, a flavor for drama that is missing from dancing back home. Unless you count hip hop, I suppose.
As the day progressed, I captured more shots.
The kids pulled at the camera begging, “Auntie, me photo? Me?”
The joyous chorus of “Happy Christmas” turned into familial purgatory for some children. A queer sense of duality struck as I watched a few children standing normally in the yard suddenly burst into silent, inconsolable tears.
I feared asking Kavita why, but my intuition knew they were gripped by loss. Most of the children have at least one living parent. The crying children were dejected that their one parent did not bother to visit on a day marketed towards family unity.
Ambica’s mother did visit, but only came to borrow a dancing outfit for another girl. Her presence clocked in at 10 minutes max. I observed poor Ambica circling the fence, seemingly attracted to its magnetic pull. The main attraction being her mother and brother waiting for an auto-rickshaw. Any attention she sought came in trickles, if any.
Please excuse the photos, my intention is not to invoke sensationalism, but the tears threw me off kilter. What I saw in their disappointed faces, I saw in myself. Christmas stopped being enjoyable for me at about age 11. My father was off gallivanting with another woman and my mother’s will to maintain stability crumbled. It reached a point when we stopped purchasing or decorating a tree.
I lived through my trials, and know these kids will, so I did my college best to crack smiles. Not to mention more dancing. An American hip-hop song circulated on a loop and I gyrated like a go-go monkey to giggles and heckling. Kavita also stepped into her dancing sari.
I also had a special surprise for the kids.
I was delighted to find Asian style noodles in the nearby town, Pen. While I slaved in the kitchen, we could hear the children jockeying to grab their plates, the metal clanging against each other with excitement when word got out that Auntie Jeannie was making something tasty.
Come serving time, Jeannie does her duty.
We ended the evening with prayer and thanks for the bountiful food and company. All in all, a stellar Christmas.
Tell me, how did you spend yours?