Up until the 6th standard, I was a convent girl. In both Mangalore and Belgaum, my father made sure we studied in an all girls’ convent. Now I sort of like the idea of studying in a convent but back then I dreaded it. There were so many things that I could not understand about convent life – Mass, Sunday church, Choir and Christmas. But they were all big deals around me. On my way home from Ladyhill (School where I studied in Mangalore), I saw homes lit up with fairy lights and Christmas trees with shiny disco balls. I wanted so much to be a part of this. It seemed fascinating to hang around a tree all day and decorate it and have interesting looking things to eat later in the evening, like cookies and cake. Any occasion that called for baking cakes at home, wins hands down to waking up to loud, insufferable ringing of bells competing with granny’s sick voice trumpeting into Om Jai Jagadish Hare, to which I woke up to, every morning for all the time that I was in Mangalore.
I did have friends who would bring me generous servings of cake after the holidays but that part of the world always remained a mystery and hence desirable to me. I wondered how it was to speak English at home. Did they joke in English too? What did they have for dinner? For a long time I was convinced that because they spoke English and all, they would eat what I still call the “Tom & Jerry” food. This includes every item of food ever shown on the show. Giant pieces of meat, bread, jelly, custard, pie, steaks, cheese, fruits, sausages and pudding.
This sumptuous scene with food bursting about from all corners of the table remained with me for a long time. Even when I moved to Belgaum and my versions of christian families came to be shattered with every friend I made at St. Joseph’s Convent for girls. I was in Belgaum for 2 Christmases, one of which I decided with great enthusiasm, to celebrate. It was holiday season so cousins and uncles and aunts from all over the country came visiting and one kind uncle helped the cousins and I to pick some sad and orphaned tree and thus began my first Xmas celebration.
It was really a sad tree – short and withering and all. But the cousins and I ran around like mad things trying to decorate it. We couldn’t find any shiny stuff so we decorated it instead with bars of chocolate and Diwali candles. The excitement lasted for all of an hour and a half. After that we tore the chocolates away from the tree and ran around the house trying to shield it from each other. I was not particularly happy about the tree but I didn’t complain because I did get to hang around it, trying to decorate it so, yay!
This was the stupidest thing I may have done but a good part of it defines some initial Belgaum experiences for me. This and the times spent playing at a garden next door. So every Christmas morning, I think of the tree or maybe I should just call it plant and be done with it. There. A plant that shot greenish-yellow leaves and thinly branches looking worn out because of bars of chocolates being forced upon it. That’s all I think of really – A chocolate named creamy bar that I haven’t found after Belgaum.