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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

'X'mas is here..! Find X.

I am so overwhelmed by the response my first ever story got and I can’t seem to bring myself to the ground and am currently in a floating state, after tens of people liked it on Facebook and others, through blog comments and even in person. Christmas has rung itself in; there are voices of Boney M and Jim Reeves in the air. The  trip to hometown is in the pipeline, packing is halfway through, the festivities have started, the tree is lit, its ornaments are everywhere, the house is in a complete mess, so in short holidays are here! Yay!  

Christmas is the festival of merriment. We often exchange wishes saying ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Merry Xmas’ , both of which are intended to mean the same thing, but I was confused whether the latter was a colloquial usage. Because replacing Christ from Christmas with ‘X’ just dint make sense. I remember writing out cards that read 'Merry Christmas'…but ever since Christmas cards went down in the pages of history, the sms lingo made the situation worse with people saying ‘Hey Happy xmaz xoxoxo’ to which I just want to say 'Dude. It is Christmas'. 

Call me an idiot, but since Christmas brings with it the incredible season of winter, and festivities enjoyed by everyone regardless of religion, I believed that the non-Christians pulled the Christ out of Christmas and commercialized it. So any Christian worth his salt should not say 'Xmas', is what I thought although I used it in my whatsapp conversations. Because by the time I type Christmas, my phone would have become a thing of the past, thanks to my toddler who is extremely fond of throwing expensive stuff. 

Image courtesy:

But Google later told me a different story altogether. It seems there were protests by people across the world who had similar feelings as mine, over replacing ‘Christ’ with ‘X’. There were people who felt like the word ‘Xmas’ was more like an algebraic term which by the end of if wants the reader to Find ‘X’.  (A portion of me died by the the time I graduated, after hunting down all X, Y and Z which were absconding ever since I joined)

However, the word ‘Xmas’ originated somewhere around the 16th century, that is like really long ago.  Here is what the Wiki has to say about it:
Xmas is a common abbreviation of the word Christmas .The "-mas" part is from the Latin-derived Old English word for Mass,[1] while the "X" comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστόςwhich comes into English as "Christ".[2]
There is a common misconception that the word Xmas stems from a secular attempt to remove the religious tradition from Christmas[3] by taking the "Christ" out of "Christmas", but its use dates back to the 16th century.

Another article reads:
First of all, you have to understand that it is not the letter X that is put into Christmas. We see the English letter X there, but actually what it involves is the first letter of the Greek name for Christ. Christos is the New Testament Greek for Christ. The first letter of the Greek word Christos is transliterated into our alphabet as an X. That X has come through church history to be a shorthand symbol for the name of Christ. Source:
So Xmas also means Christmas , its got a beautiful history behind it, so chill. People back in 16th century wouldn't have used it if it was sms lingo.
16th century. Hmm. It just struck me that this was also the time Shakespeare lived. Going by his work and especially his characters and their soliloquies, it is very unlikely that people of those times would actually think about using smaller words or concepts. 

In other news, I had hatched a master plan to put up an exclusive Christmas tree for the IT department of our office. With the help of some friends, we achieved a beautiful outcome and here it is.

This could be the last post of 2013, and so here is wishing all my readers and to everyone who stumbled upon this page and cared to leave comments, criticism and suggestions, a Merry Xmas and a joyous and blessed New Year 2014! 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Between Leya and me.

This short story, the first in its genre I ever attempted, was published under 'Fiction' in the November issue of the popular emagazine, Tamarind Rice. 
It is naive. It is amateur. It has got gaps and potholes. I accept all of its flaws and any criticism with utmost modesty and respect. Thank you all my readers who were my Boosts and Complans all the way!

I lost my ability to see beyond the bars. The big black bars of the cell I was detained in. Every other sight I could see was marred by these bars, which held my mind captive within the darkness and loneliness of its four walls. The walls were the hostile witnesses to the fear, guilt, tears, loneliness and regret of prisoners over the years. The sky that changed colors and the moving clouds were the only changes that happened in my otherwise standstill life. I was not sure whether it was the gallows or a life sentence for me or whether one day I will get to go home only to be ridiculed forever. My lawyer came once in a while and often left unsure of my case. I ate, drank, and stared at the sky.

It was an old but well known prison that held women offenders. Often it has witnessed the arrival and quick departure of the famous. Once a day, we were allowed to walk in the prison ground and adjacent garden. I saw a lot of women in a similar plight as mine, depressed and weary. They hardly spoke or socialized. On many days I saw the beautiful lady with sparkling grey eyes and a huge tattoo on her arms either talking to herself, or sometimes even hesitating to come outside her cell, for that break we could be human beings and not zoo animals. Nobody talked to her, nor did she talk to anyone. Days passed.

I had nothing to look forward to. I did not know what was ahead of me. My husband died eleven years ago, and I have no offspring, in short there was nobody waiting for me. My parents had written me off the books when I married against their wishes.

If it was the gallows, I could prepare myself for it. But my life lay in the passive, discolored corridors of the jail, hooked on uncertainty. Suddenly, the inkling of the lock and key blared into my ears from the deafening silence. I turned around. I could not see the person in the adjacent cell, but someone had occupied it. It was the only cell that was closest to mine.

“Hello… “I started my conversation, my first self-initiated conversation in months.
I did not expect any response.

“Leya here”

I was delighted.

“How long here?” I inquired.

“You came after I did..” Leya said matter-of-factly.

“Eight months since I came..” I remembered.

Leya had a sweet, young voice. That day at recess, as soon as she was released she walked to me. I felt her desperate need to talk and be understood. It was not money or luxury or even love that a person needs…it is a certain someone who can listen, without being judgmental. She had murdered her senior colleague in an act of defense as he forced himself on her one night at the workplace.

That guy had a good lawyer and things turned against her. She was all of 25. I could almost feel her pain, and how she had longed to share her feelings. And I narrated my story, the story of my life as a nurse and on the fateful night how I messed with the dosage of a medicine and the man lost his life. I was sentenced on grounds of medical negligence and murder. She nodded.

I started looking forward to the recess during which I could be with Leya and walked around the prison garden. She had everything – career, love, money and happiness. The world turned upside down when on one night she had to work late. She did not have any intention to kill him, but it was that fatal blow she struck with the vase. Other women looked at us sympathetically, as we talked but never approached for anything. Nobody else in the prison preferred to talk to me, and avoided me like plague. However, I dint care much.

A week later, my lawyer emerged. He was seen talking to the security and duty policemen and pointed at me. He exchanged glances with the policemen as they talked to me. He said my trial was scheduled that week and any time he may come to take me to the court room for the proceedings. Sadness, anxiety and fear had become alien emotions. Over the eight months, I had turned into stone. The lonely life, aimless existence and the tomorrow that may not exist – I welcomed these to my life. Few days later, I was asked to follow the lawyer to the prison entrance and from there we went to the court accompanied by police. One of the prison policemen testified that I was not normal in my behavior. After the proceedings the judge considered my age and ‘mental stability’ and severity of the crime I committed and sentenced me to the mental asylum for six months. I did not understand what exactly was happening or why I was being treated for non-existent mental disorders. I followed the policemen and asked them a million questions but they refused to answer. I was escorted back to the darkness of my cell.

As I walked I turned to look at Leya, as I knew she’d be anticipating the judgment from my trial. However she was not there. All other inmates were in their respective cells. I asked the police on duty,’ Where is Leya?’

‘Leya, who?’ he asked neglectfully.

‘The one in this cell…with the tattoo’. I said pointing to her space. On hearing this, Jeena looked at me from her cell in surprise.

‘There was nobody here’ he said coldly.

‘The grey eyed lady, with the tattoo on her arm…’ I continued.

‘I said there was nobody here! Now stop dreaming and take your belongings! Fast!’ He screamed.

I walked to my space, confused, and started packing my things. Jeena’s eyes followed me.
May be this policeman did not know Leya, I thought. I turned to look at Jeena, pointed to Leya’s cell and gestured to question Leya’s whereabouts.

Jeena continued to stare at me in shock and suspicion.

‘Now don’t tell me you don’t know her”, I was annoyed by her unresponsiveness.

Jeena said, ‘Yes. I knew her. Three years ago, before she hanged herself to death in this cell, I knew her. Leya, the grey eyed girl with the big tattoo.’

I stood there, flabbergasted.

Jeena continued. ‘Leya was the name she called herself. Her actual name was Janice. Janice George. She came here roughly ten years ago. ’

Janice George, the lady who murdered my husband.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Christmas tree I could not have...

To say the least, I get very intense around Christmas. I am bossy and I will have my way by any means. I will be on my toes most of the time, overbearing and highly intolerable, assigning duties to everyone including the toddler. Rest of the year, I am exceptionally sweet, lovable, modest and down to earth. I do not know how others perceive it though, as very often I am mistaken to be carrying over the Christmas code of conduct for another eleven months, but as we all know everyone has the right to judge and I exercise my right to ignore.

When I was younger, artificial trees like we have now and tree ornaments existed only in the homes of NRIs so we satisfied ourselves by decorating the fern plant from our garden. After my marriage I made it clear that in the month of December there will be a Christmas tree in my living room, at any cost. And so it happened. We had shifted to a different country, Oman, in year 2010 and had minimal furniture and vessels, but Christmas tree was certainly there (going by my unwritten rule). We still have the same tree carefully packed in its box resting under our bed cabinet, fresh and very usable, almost as good as new. However I am known to be extravagant and quite a wasteful spendthrift around Christmas…Oh did I not mention that earlier? It is the complete opposite of what Christmas really means, due to the obvious fact that baby Jesus was not born in Breach Candy hospital. So despite having a very usable tree, I went Christmas tree shopping.

Day 1: We went to the Lulu(supermarket) near our house and found the most amazing tree ever. But then a voice in my head said… ‘Hey! C’mon you should know better…you cannot possibly ‘like’ the first tree you saw…don’t you want to check those at Home center as well and make a wise decision?’ Of course, what was I thinking?
My favorite tree from Lulu

Day 2: We went to home center and found the most expensive trees not worth a single penny.

Day 3: We went to Sultan center mall and found trees from the 18th century. So Lulu tree it is…My favorite tree…here I come..get ready and pack your bags!

Day 4: At Lulu, I was told that my favorite tree was sold out. I yelled crazy. ‘We could check in the other Lulu right?’ I consoled myself (In Middle East, there is a Lulu in every corner).

Day 5: At the other Lulu, my favorite tree was there. Three of them on display, and others were in boxes. ‘Brother, please pack this item, we don’t have time to think ’I said. Whoosh! We almost flew home in excitement.

Day 6: The tree stayed in the box.

Day 7: The tree stayed in the box.

Day 8: Midnight: I opened the box and set it up. It was the ugliest tree of the entire Christmas tree collection in the history of Lulu. The damn sales guy packed the wrong tree.

Day 9: Complete hysteria. The car sped towards the Lulu that spoiled our lives, with the box of so-called tree, its bill, and a temper that had gone ablaze. The sales guy apologized and confessed that my favorite tree including the ones on display was sold out from there as well. We came home sailing in our own tears.

Day 10: I dusted my tree from 2011 and lit it. It took more time as I had to wipe tears in between. My son thought that putting up Christmas tree was some sort of sad ritual wherein one remembers dead forefathers.

At the end, my tree looked something like this. Not so bad eh?
My Christmas tree

Lessons Learnt:

1.      When you find something you like, buy it immediately. Do not wait to compare, especially seasonal stuff like Christmas trees, mangoes and watermelons. Cunning and ruthless people are waiting like wolves to grab what you wanted so dearly, I am telling you.

2.      When you buy an item, open the box and check it at the store itself before heading for home. This does not apply to milk and eggs.

3.      The intensity of your greed to buy something you already have is inversely proportional to your chances of owning it.

4.      When you put up Christmas tree, do not cry. Do it to create memories for yourself and your kids. If the kid does not give a damn of your precious and beautiful tree, it is most likely you are raising a boy. The male species develop such annoying indifference to all things beautiful at a very early stage. In this case as early as two years and five months of age.

Merry Christmas everyone! Hope you guys find your perfect tree!

Spread the word!