As I woke, I heard a faint sound of music seeping into my darkened room. Even though the windows were tightly shut (they always were) I could easily recognize that source of the sound. Tinged with a heavy base, it was coming from woofers of quite a high wattage. Along with it came the cacophony that was undoubtedly the shouting of young children.
The clouds of sleep hadn’t cleared from my head, yet. So I felt a tinge of anger for getting disturbed on a peaceful Sunday evening. I buried my head in the pillow, hoping for the sound to get away. But like the water seeping into the cracks of a barren land, the sound filtered through the stuffed cotton of the pillow. Into my ears, till the farthest corners of my consciousness.
What is with the people today, I thought in my head. I decided to take a look.
I slipped out of the bed, my head still groggy with a dreamless sleep. The floor was cold as ice. Its coldness sending shivers up to my clumsy body. I groped in the dark for my slippers which I remembered keeping near the bed before I dozed off. As always, I remembered it wrong.
I found one of the slippers at the corner, near the foot of the bed. The other still resisted my efforts and remained hidden in the darkness. As the blanket of sleep still hung over me like a dark veil, I decided to continue search without switching on the lights. Fishing the floor with my foot, I finally found it lurking below the table. Turned upside down.
With both feet protected from the coldness, I dragged my body to the window. Slid up the wire screen. And unbolted the glass windows. The scene outside certainly looked like a gala.
The left side of the compound was flushed with colorful decorative lights, blinking like stars from some other sky. Six or seven young boys and girls were running around a circle made of chairs, relishing a game of musical chair.
A group of women stood nearby, talking and gossiping about the week that went by. A few of them occasionally stealing a look towards the participants of musical chair. Possibly hoping for their son or daughter to not get eliminated in this round. The men were sitting on the chair, occasionally laughing out loud at a joke well said.
It was merry all over.
It looked like some festival. But wait a minute, it was indeed a festival today. It was Christmas. Occupied in finishing off a few pending tasks, I’d completely forgotten about the festival. By the time I got free by four in the evening, I’d plopped on the bed like a fallen log, dissolving into an immediate sleep. Only to get up five minutes back when I heard the sound seeping through the windows.
As the realization dawned upon me, a smile spread across my face. Scenes from my old childhood flashed across my face. The neighbor I grew up in celebrated every festival together, in a ‘gala’ like the one I was seeing right now.
As young children, we would get drunk in a festive mood. We would play and eat and dance till it was late into the night. On one Christmas, when the spirits were high, and the air electric with our enthusiasm, a couple of old men had come down, and stomped onto the stage, asking to stop this nuisance, that we were causing a disturbance in the peaceful society.
The elders in our group had settled the matters with him. The music volume was reduced, promises were made. As we stood far from this scene, I remember, we scoffed at this person, how could he be such a spoilsport, how could he be such a ‘Grinch.’
Today, as I stood there beside the window, I realized, I’d became that Grinch. I smiled at myself, and at the tide of time, which had carried me from the gathering of the ones dancing and enjoying on the other side of the window to the one one this side, from where I was considering all this a nuisance.
It felt like only yesterday when I was there among the group of children. Around two decades had passed since then. A long journey. Still, it felt like only yesterday.
A sudden pang of hunger filled my stomach. With a smile on my face, I went to the kitchen. After a few minutes of searching, I found a single packet of Maggi.
“Merry Christmas,” I said to myself before I started preparing my early evening dinner.