Story of a tiny green tree and a name that remained over years.
‘You can use cotton and stick them at the ends of the branches. It will look like snow.’
The ‘tree’, tiny and fake, looked bald and frail with its green spiky branches sticking out from the wooden pole. Half a dozen of them were glued spirally on the maple pole and looked quite odd altogether. Tiny the tree was, that an eight-year old could put the star on its top without even tiptoeing. Yet it was a pride! It was the brightest corner of the room.
Friends came in the evening to appreciate and watch with awe. One gold star on the tip and with the weight of the four red cherry ornaments added, the tree was under immense pressure to fall flat anytime. But nobody noticed and neither did they care. There weren’t any promises of gifts under the trees those days. But sometimes there were cakes – the plum and raisin round treat, which were carefully sliced in thin pieces to put one in every mouth. There were many mouths and before the rich taste could settle, it was gone. But the smell of the cake lingered in the air and the left over crumbs in the brown paper remained as a sweet memory.
Good things were never abundant! Good, that they weren’t!
The oldest Christmas tree of Great Britain looked remarkably alike to the one which we had. Both frail, falling and yet proud. They were 100 years apart. One stood like history and survived Hitler’s bombing and remained for three generations and moved eight houses. William’s tree bought at only two shillings, was named after the little Willian in 1920, who died as a teen. Our tiny green friend, bought cheap from one of the dingy auction stores of old park street, had a name inscribed at its base. ‘To Noya, my eights years’, the writing was in cursive and the font looked as old as the shop where we bought it from. It was ‘Noya’ whom I wanted to bring home. The Christmas tree was never in the list, but a wooden recliner was what my ‘dadu’ went for. The chair was stiff and so was the tree. But what was written at the back without a date, gave it a new home.
Young as I was, I remembered drawing Noya, a naïve portrait of another junior, brown hair and dark eyes. I never shared my cake, neither knew the tradition of keeping the warm milk and cookies under the tree and Santa was always the skinny one in India with a pillow tied around the waist. Noya remained with me, for many years, a boy, probably whose family stayed in the old city of Kolkata only to leave one day, leaving behind the things that they won’t carry. The tree stood the weight of the unknown years, embraced new houses and probably owners of different religions.
It was one Christmas day, my friend took me to the cathedral and then we drifted to the oldest graveyard of the city that late afternoon. The city was dry and cold and somewhere far away there was music and laughter. The white stones bearing the names of someone’s beloved, remained grave and quiet. Noya came back in a flash! I, probably unlike Noah, had crossed the eight years many years back and in the midst of the music and the white of the stone, I tried frantically to search for a name, wishing never to find it.
Not all Christmas stories are Merry. Nor is Life!
(Cover pic courtesy: Dailymail.co.uk)
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