Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Countdown: 1 Day to Go

I still remember that night very clearly as if it was only yesterday.

I was doing my college in Bombay and staying in a hostel that was attached to this college. The Christmas holidays had begun and I was looking at the possibility of another Christmas away from home. I was already a three year veteran in 'spending Christmas away from home' and it never felt good. It's not supposed to anyway. Christmas like most festivals are best celebrated with one's parents in one's house in one's hometown.

It was Christmas eve and I knew I had to do something.

While sipping tea with a hostel mate, I thought, why not go out of the city and visit my brother who was studying/ staying in a college town that was six hours from Bombay. At first I dismissed the idea as too fanciful but the more I thought of it the more it became appealing.

However, the only problem was that I didn't make a train reservation, which would make it hard for me to get a seat. I could get a direct bus but I hated (and still do) overnight bus journeys, and so the only option was to take the only available train at midnight. It was a slow train that will take more than 6 hours to reach the neighbouring city of Poona that ordinarily takes around 3 hours by a fast train. My plan was to take the train to Poona and then undertake a 2 hour bus journey that will take me to my brother's college town.

I bought the ticket on this slow train and boarded it with my limited luggage. As expected there was no seat available since almost all of the seats were taken and most people had to manage by sitting on the floor or in the aisle or wherever they found space to park themselves. I didn't choose my spot but found myself - quite accidentally - sitting outside the loo.

It was nauseating to say the least, and the claustrophobia one experienced was way too horrid beyond words. The train was jam packed and even where I was seated, I had to recline at an angle so as not to touch others and stay comfortable. And if this wasn't enough, a group of men entered the train and started singing some vulgar songs to amuse themselves.

It was probably my worst Christmas eve, and as I sat there I imagined what my parents might be doing, and what my church in Bahrain will be up to. And then it occured to me that, perhaps, far from being my worst Christmas eve, it was perhaps one of the most beautiful experiences ever. great things to come out of the course.

Yes, I was uncomfortable at having to spend my Christmas eve at such a horrible place, and I could only think of my family and friends who would be celebrating their Christmas in church or at their home. And then, as I sat there, a thought occured to me that, perhaps, I was getting a glimpse of the first Christmas.

Mary gave birth to the baby Jesus in an even worse place, and had cattle and oxen as room mates. It's not possible that Mary and Joseph must have enjoyed the idea of a delivery in a stable. They were both told by the angel that the Child was special, and so I'm sure, they must have expected a slightly better service.

As my train crawled slowly to Poona afer a tiresome all night journey, I had to run to catch a bus. After all, three hours is a lot better to reach my destination unlike the other train that leaves at mightnight or thereabouts.

I did reach my brother's hostel and had to dress up quickly and join him on his Christmas plans. It was one get-together after another that lasted the entire day and a little bit of the next night as well.

But I can't forget that Christmas eve because it gave me a glimpse of what Mary and Joseph may have gone through. And this alone, transformed the trip into an awesome experience.

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