Saturday, December 23, 2006

Saint Nicholas. Never met him in person. Did you?

My most persistent childhood memory of Christmas is of the stuffed stockings sold in the toy stores of Crawford Market. Made of white netting and edges trimmed with a red ribbon, they used to contain a lot of junk – mostly stuff you could pick up for an anna or two from a balloon seller. Whistles and balloons and miniature packs of playing cards and folding paper tricks and party knick knacks, you know, the collective value of which was way below what the brigands charged for the whole stocking. The smallest sized one used to be priced, if memory serves, at Rs.7/-. Even that was a lot of money in those days. I remember forcing my father foolishly to buy if not the largest at least the second largest stocking for me. This set him back for a fair amount of his hard earned money. The poor dear never once complained, though. So, figuratively and literally speaking, he was Santa Claus but I never knew it. He also used to take me to the Army and Navy Stores at Kala Ghoda in either the same or the adjoining building where the Watson Hotel used to be I remember buying a Meccano No.1 set from there apart from a chutney green clockwork road roller about which I’ve written before. The other Christmas memory from childhood is on the tip of my tongue: the delicious plum and rum cakes bought probably from an Irani bakery at Dhobi Talao – within easy walking distance of Lucky Toy Mart which stocked the Christmas stockings.

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