Essays from The Education of a Bengali Gentleman
Will Santa Get it Right This Year
By Susim Munshi
If you are on the Internet, probably on Facebook, or Twitter, you have come across this gwaff. Someone is writing their seasonal letter to Santa. It states, “Dear Santa, This year for Christmas, I would like lots of money and a thin body. Hope you get it right this year.” Of course I laughed. Then I stopped to ponder if I have ever written a letter to Santa. I remember helping my daughters write to Santa and mailing them to the North Pole, Zip Code, NP 1. One year I wrote my younger daughter a reply from Santa and sent it in the mail to her. I think I might have written a similar letter to my older daughter too. You see whenever a parent, or sibling, passes away, in my culture we observe a year of abstinence. We do not attend weddings, birthday parties, Durga Puja, or celebrate Christmas. So when my mother passed in October we did not celebrate Durga Puja. Yet Christmas was three months down the road. We were back to our usual routines. How could I explain not having a tree and presents, especially because we were so into celebrating Christmas every year.
There was a very fortunate starting point in the letter. You see when my mother passed, in the culture and tradition of my family, I shaved my head clean. My younger daughter decided to cut off her waist length hair and donate it to a charity organization that made wigs for children of cancer. She would continue to repeat that kindness every time she had foot long hair to donate.
So I wrote – “Dear Mona, We are very busy in the North Pole. This year we have had an exceptional crop of donated hair. Amongst everything else, the elves are very busy weaving wigs for our little friends suffering from cancer. It is good hearted children like you who help to bring a smile on their faces during the holiday season. By the way, I hear that your grandmother recently passed away. I am very sorry for your loss. We miss her a lot too. Especially her lovely knitting. Every year she knit many woolen garments and scarves for all the needy around the world. I understand you have several sweaters and scarves your grandmother knitted for you. Treasure them all your life. Even when they are old and frayed. Like so many other things, they will help to keep the memory of your grandmother alive.” Then came the hard part but Santa surely had a way with his words. “Dear Mona,” he continued, “I know it is going to be hard not to have a tree and presents this year on account of your grandmother passing. But I want to assure you that I have a special gift for you. Actually, it is a prayer. Because only God has control over such things. My prayer for you is to wish that your lovely hair grows fast and strong, so you can continue giving all year. By next Christmas your picture and name will be on the Christmas greeting card we send out to all the families whose children have been so lucky to have received your wonderful and generous gifts. God Bless you Mona. With love from Mrs. Claus, and all the elves, your loving, Santa Claus.” The letter arrived promptly before Christmas Day. I saved it for the next day.
We have a fireplace in our living room. But that year there was no decorated and lighted Christmas tree or presents. The annual arrivals of greeting cards had continued. It is the tradition in our family to stack them up to open and share after we are through with the presents on Christmas day. I presented my daughter with the greeting card from the North Pole, Zip Code, NP 1. Santa had got it right.