The Christmas Gift
Mary awoke to a bright and chilly Monday morning. She was thrilled. It was the 20th of December, just five days to go for Christmas. Mary enjoyed this festival a lot and this year, she was sure, Christmas would bring in a lot of gaiety, as it did in all the previous years. All the churches in Hyderabad have already been illuminated and decorated with Christmas wreaths to signal the arrival of the holy Christmas day.
She started daydreaming..
She would wake up early on Christmas Eve and visit the church; later she would help her father, David in decorating the Christmas tree and placing jingle bells round the house. She liked the quote by Mary Elder Chase, ‘Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of the mind.’ When the final day arrived, she would relish the goodies that her mother would make, including the Christmas cake. There would be fun and frolic in the home..
Breaking into her reverie, came her mother’s voice from the kitchen.
“Mary dear, do get ready fast. We need to start soon in order to complete our shopping.”
“Yes Ma, One minute.” replied Mary in a bright and jovial voice.
Mary and her parents had planned to go out shopping to buy new clothes for Christmas.
Mary ran upstairs to her room, washed her face, rummaged through her wardrobe, and selected a red satin dress. She came down in no time and joined her parents and little sister, Jency.
“Ready Ma, Let us go.” Mary gave the lead and headed towards the door. Mary’s Papa went out and hired an auto rickshaw. “Monda Market.” Papa told the auto driver. The family got in and the auto rickshaw sped towards Monda Market.
Monda Market is a famous market place in Hyderabad, that sells miscellaneous items like fruits, vegetables, flowers, toys, clothing and bangles among a lot of other fancy items.
The auto came to a halt near the market place and Mary stepped out with her parents and sister. Papa paid the required fare to the driver and started surveying the place. Monda Market was bustling with activity, especially with Christmas round the corner. All the shops were teeming with people and there was much clamouring and rejoicing. There was a festive fervour and strong fragrance of “agarbattis” filled the air. Seeing this, Mary exclaimed, “Oh! It seems all the Hyderabadis’ are here to make Monda Market one among the busiest markets in India!.” Mama and Papa laughed as they set out to see what was in store for them at the market place.
On the opposite pavement, they sighted a balloon shop with lots of colorful balloons, festoons and flowers hanging out and stepped into it. Mary and Jency selected a couple of brilliantly-looking balloons and retreated to the adjoining ice-cream parlour to have some refreshments.
After relishing the ice-creams, they set off to the row of cloth shops, on either side of the road. They, first, went inside ‘Mahalakshmi Garments’ a medium sized shop which claimed to sell all kinds of fancy clothing, including a variety of silks.
The collection of Crepe, Organza and Chiffon saris attracted Mama’s attention. She rapidly approached the stack of silk saris.
“Show me some of these silk saris please, preferable with a decorated border.” Mama asked the salesman.
“Sure Madam, Here take a look” The salesman lost no time in heaping a dozen saris in front of her.
After pondering for a long time, she selected a lovely blue Crepe sari with a reddish border and asked the salesman “What is the price of this sari?” The salesman saw the price tag and replied “Rs. 7000 /- Madam.”
Mama tried to haggle for a while. “Please tell me the final price. If you give me a fair price, I will bring my friends along from next time.” “Rs 6,080/- Madam. I will give you twenty Rupees discount.!” “No way! Please tell your manager to give me for 6,050/-, else I will go to the next shop.” The salesman, at last, agreed and gave the sari for packing.
Mama turned to Mary and asked, “Mary, Aren’t you and sister taking any clothes.?”
“No Ma. Let us go to another shop. Neither myself nor Jency have found anything suitable here.”
Therefore, they made their way out of the shop and trudged towards another big shop Lallu Brothers located nearby.
“Show us some cocktail dresses and party wear, please.” Mary requested the salesman.
The salesman readily obliged and took out a variety of party clothing of almost all hues and colors. “Choose one for yourself, dear. I think this one looks nice on you .” Mama started putting the clothes on Mary and asking her to see in the mirror. At this point, Mary spotted a light green coloured velvet cocktail dress with a dark green embroidered border, on the top shelf.
She immediately pointed at that and asked the salesman “Please take out that green dress.” The salesman promptly agreed and spread the dress before Mary. Here, Madam, have a look.” Mary took an instant liking to the dress. She felt the dress with her hands and exclaimed “Wow, Ma, Look at this dress. It looks simply superb and spectacular. I would love to have this.” Mama too felt the dress and consented. She looked at the price tag. It said Rs. 9000/-. At this, Mama said, Oh! Lord. What prices!!. I agree that the dress is of super quality, dear, but the price is a bit on the high side.”
Mary had to admit. “Yes, Ma.” She said sadly. Both Mary and her mother tried to bargain with the salesman. “Is there any way you can reduce this?. Please tell us the final price.” The salesman was adamant. “No Madam, This is the fixed price after discount. We will not be able to reduce it any further.” Mama and Mary became hopeless.
Mama turned to her daughter and said, “Mary dear, you have to forsake the dress for this time. Choose among these dresses, for now. Many of these are quite nice. We shall try our luck at your dress when we come again.”
“Okay Ma. I think I have to forego the green dress.” Mary had to settle down for a pink-colored cocktail which also looked gorgeous and pretty.
There was a performance by a monkey vendor which fascinated Mary and Jency along with her parents.
“What a vibrant performance!”, they agreed and stood there watching, and enjoying, busy licking at their candy.
Lastly, they packed some sweets at the Sholapur sweets shop and were all set to return home.
At home, Mary was the first to flop down on the sofa, completely exhausted from the pushing and jostling in the crowd at the market place, all the while carrying the shopping bags. Papa joked, “Mary dear, I think you need to pray Santa to give you more energy.” Mary smiled and started upstairs. She was thrilled and excited at the events which took place at the market place. The only thought that saddened her was that she was not able to purchase the green dress which attracted her so much. “ How nice it would if that dress were mine!. It is so bad that the salesman did not reduce the price!!.” With these thoughts, she changed into a nightgown.
All of them soon finished with their dinner and Mary laid down to sleep still thinking, “What a lovely dress I missed. I wish I could go again and get that dress.” Soon sleep overtook her and her eyes closed, ready for sweet dreams…
...Slowly she came out of her bed, went straight to Monda Market, to Lallu Brothers , brought down that green dress, put it on and went to her friend’s house . There, her friend’s brother stared at her and immediately asked her hand in marriage. She blushed and ran out of her friend’s house ...
The next day dawned and Mary awoke with a start. “Oh! Where am I.?” She thought of what happened after she went to sleep and smiled sadly. Atleast, in my dreams I was able to get at that green dress and attract a guy.” She laughed to herself , thinking of Cinderella.
Days passed and the final day came. Chants of “Merry Christmas”, “Hearty X-mas” and “Happy New Year” filled the air .
Mary, first, needed to get ready for the church.
The church bells rang as Mary, her parents and sister approached the church. They participated in the church prayers, sang the Christmas Carols and went through the other festival rituals in the church.
It was noon by the time they returned home.
Ten minutes later, there was a knock on the door. Mary ran to open. “What a pleasant surprise! Happy Christmas Dadima!!.” exclaimed Mary.
“Happy Christmas Beti” How are you?
“Fine, Dadima. Come, give me that luggage and sit down first.”
Mary’s Papa, Mama, sister rushed towards the door to greet the visitor.
Mary’s Papa questioned “What Ma?, you came alone? You should have brought Papaji along.”
“Yes, David, but your father is a bit down with cold. So, he could not make it.”
“Oh! then it is ok Dadima, Let Dadaji take rest and get better soon. Here, have some water. You came all the way from Rajahmandry. Tell us all about your journey.”
“Nothing special Beti” replied Dadima drinking the water. “the Lord asked me to be with you on this Christmas day. That is all.” winked Dadima. “Ok Dadima.. Wait a minute, I will bring tea for you.
Mary went into the kitchen and was back with three hot cups of tea. All of them sipped the tea in silence, when Mary broke in “Okay, Dadima, What did you bring from Rajahmandry for us?”
“Yes, yes Beti, You reminded me on time. Look I have brought a lovely Christmas present to you. Dadima took out a brown paper-bag and placed it in Mary’s hands. Here, Mary, this is for you.”
“Thanks Dadima. Thank you so much. By the way, Dadima, do you want to visit the church?” asked Mary.
Yes, of course, dear let us start off soon so that we can come back soon. I need to go to bed early as I have to leave tomorrow early morning.
“Oh! Dadima, kidded Mary “It is sin to leave your son’s house so soon.”
“No problem Beti, I have told the Lord to forgive all my sins on His birthday!” Dadima joked.
“Ok then, wait a minute, I will keep this inside and bring along the Christmas cake. We shall have it all together and then start our journey to the church.” Mary said and rushed to the refrigerator to fetch the cake.
“Ah! What a lovely and tasty cake” Dadima and all others relished the chocolate cake, after which all of them set out for the church.
The church was beautifully decorated and lighted with the dazzling Christmas Star and the Christmas tree. Inside the church, splendid lighting arrangements were made which adorned the painting of the Jesus.
The next morning Dadima took leave of her son, daughter-in-law, Mary and Jency. All of them bid Dadima a tearful farewell and Papa saw her off at the bus stand.
Mary came back to her room. The brown bag which her Dadima has given her still lay on the bed. Mary reached for it and peeped inside. Lo! What a wonder; there was the very green velvet cocktail dress that had attrached her so much in the Monda Market.
Mary was taken aback as she took out the dress and involuntarily gave out a scream of surprise. Hearing Mary’s voice, her sister and parents came into the room to learn what has happened.
Mama saw the dress in Mary’s hands and understood. Silently, Mary approached her parents. “Mama and Papa, Santa Claus does exist. Dadima has proved it.” Mary said softly. She kissed her Mama as tears of happiness welled up her cheeks.
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