Childhood Signifiers for Winter


Christmas is here. This year, as I geared up for the occasion - especially the ritual of decorating the Christmas tree with my daughter - I couldn’t help but think back to my girlhood. Studying in a Catholic convent as I did, Christmas was an eagerly awaited time of the year and undoubtedly the highlight of the winter season for us in school.


For me personally, though, there were always two signifiers of the season – apart from the nativity play in school, it was my mother’s silk sarees and shawls coming out of the almirah (wardrobe).


This is one of the silk sarees Ma had gifted me - worn in Dec 2014.
The most tangible sign of winter for me was the excitement with which Ma took out her ‘winter clothes’ in the sun. There were several times when there was wholesale cleaning/washing/drying in our house – the ritual summer (Bengali new year) and autumn (Durga Puja) cleaning that happened every year. But the December one was different. It was more luxuriant. Ma took out her silk sarees and her pashminas, and they were displayed in the balcony - like one big winter exhibition! They looked so colourful and gorgeous when they were taken out and displayed like that - opened out, and not just folded in. When they were neatly folded in the Godrej, you just got to see patches of colour in rows and columns; out in the sun, you saw the patterns and designs in the sarees and the texture of the fabrics. Ma’s chief delight was in ‘maintaining them’, taking care of them, taking them out and putting them back in - she didn’t wear half of what she had. It was so much a part of our middle-class sensibility then to keep things ‘jotne’ - keeping things in safe custody; not hoarding or hiding, but keeping a treasure trove. 


Christmas in school was a rehashed affair. I remember, in my final year, I was very relieved to think that it was the last year I’d be going through it. Couldn’t really blame myself. After all, every year, for 14 years, I’d seen the same nativity play enacted in school and sung the same hymns. There was immense excitement about it in my childhood, especially on the occasions I got a part in the play. But in high-school, I felt bored. And the songs too lost their magic for me. 


But Ma simply loved the carols - ‘Silent night’, ‘While shepherds watched their flocks by night’, ‘O come all ye faithful’. On Christmas Eve, I dutifully sang all of them for her in our balcony. And as always, our neighbour Minku aunty would compliment me, saying: ‘khub bhalo hoyechhe’!


This year, I sang them to my daughter.


Comments

Umberto Tosi said…
Thank you for this lovely generational glimpse at the season from the viewpoint of your childhood and growing up, which resonates with all such stories, as their differences blend in counterpoint. I can see those colorful silks on display from the balcony, and almost hear those songs echoing through the ages.
Her said…
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Tuba said…
Self Publishing is a long journey. Being an Indie author, I always helps to have a support system to create an ebook cover, edit and proofread, interior design. For marketing, I use usabookreviewers.com to gather book reviews and bookbub.com to market my book. I also started gathering email subscribers. So much to do...
misha said…
A very vivid account. Love the fact that traditions and different cultures come together at Christmas.

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