Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas

Christmas for me is all about remembering and loving people and, hopefully, when the cup bubbleth over, extending this concern to all creatures- greater, smaller or the same as us.  In the past, Christmas was mostly about gazing at enticing shop windows, bedecked trees, carols on the radio and wintry movies on television.  But with Bangalore's changing demography, we are now invited to one or two Christmas parties each year and we now celebrate with friends and family in a uniquely Indo-western way.

The trend began when my brother and his Japanes wife moved here and the large Christmas parties began.  It changed course along the way when a college friend of my husband's shifted to Bangalore along with his family.  The Vaz's, a Christian family from Mangalore, have been inviting us each year for Christmas - and each time it's a different experience.  Sometimes we celebrate with just the family, sometimes (as this year) we are part of a large gathering of friends in their house, with a billowing snowman (no real snow here), lots of food and drink and Christmas carols.  We get to taste all the coastal Christmas specials - the crisp kalkals, the dainty rose cookies, the spiced roasted chicken and the delicious pork curry with sannas (steamed rice cakes).

This year, in addition to these invitations, we had our very own Christmas eve party.  Some students in the lab were leaving and their farewell party coincided with Christmas eve.  So... we had invited twenty two hungry students, of different ages, coming from different parts of the country, who were linked together by science and research.  Much as I wanted to have a proper Christmas dinner, I decided against it.  It's really not cold enough to have the full British fare, I really don't relish turkey (which seems to be the bird of choice for Christmas here) and more than half the students were vegetarian, some not even eating onions, garlic or potato.  So- we began with Blue Hawaii's (which my husband does a neat job of), then went out to the terrace where there was a table piled with chaat ingredients (boiled potatoes, chickpeas, fried papries, golgappas, sweet and spicy chutneys, spiced jaljeera drinks, curd) and asked the students to assemble their own bowls of chaat.  Not surprisisingly, they had a lot of fun doing this. 

For dinner we served mutton biryani, vegetable pulao, a home made creamy hill dal, a variety of lightly cooked vegetables and rotis hot from the oven.  For dessert there was some smoky, milky kheer and I had also made chocolate cake.  Not the sweet fudgy kind that is generally served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, but a moist, dark chocolatey affair, which I served with coffee ice cream.  I was afraid this might not satisfy the sweet tooths, but I just wanted to serve something that I imagined would be worth eating.  (I had a bitter argument a little while ago,with a renowned Bangalore chef about one of his chocolate creations; I claimed it would be much improved if it were less sweet and he said I didn't know what I was talking about- this was his best selling dessert and so on...)

Anyway, to my surprise, many people enjoyed the cake.  They asked me where I had bought it from and were amazed (sigh! this young generation...) to know that I had baked it.  Many of them said that the cakes they got outside were too sweet and so on.  Anyway, the main thing was that the food went down rather swiftly and smoothly.

And then there were the farewell speeches and so on.  Finally we went outside to our Christmas tree, which normally grows sedately in a pot on the terrace.  For the occasion, it looked suitably perky - with cotton wool snow, some ribbons dangling here and there and a few of my favourite animals nestling comfortably on it.  My most favourite animal, the Woozle (which gave Pooh and Piglet a few anxious moments) was woozling on a fluffy bit of snow.  My next favourite animal (I haven't given it a name yet- it's a sort of monkey with spikes on its back, a tribal root carving) was leaping into one of the cosier spots. 

 A benign Biblical lion stood and gazed wistfully at the presents - and there were twenty two of them, cheerfully wrapped, filled with Christmas cake and chocolates, for the students to take back.

And so ended our party, but not our Christmas.  The next day found us liberally handing out remains of the biryani and pulao to friends, maids, neighbours in what one would term a very Christmassy way.  I hope this burst of festive, good cheer and sunny spirits help us all sail happily through the coming year.

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