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Christmas Away From (Home) India: A Phone Call Less, A Moment Gone, A Memory Disappearing

Christmas Away From (Home) India: A Phone Call Less, A Moment Gone, A Memory Disappearing

  • Almost three decades later, I realized that the number of phone calls diminished. The voices at the other end that said — how are you baby, or how are you, my love — are no longer there.

34 Christmases away from India. Memories of Sunday School pageants, carol singing in Church and the neighborhoods, Santa arriving in Church with his bag of gifts on a truck and running behind the truck singing jingle bells. Home was the scene of going to the one famous baker in town, Sona Mia, whose bakery had two large clay/mud ovens under a thatched outdoor space, with my grandfather, coming home to my grandmother and the help of other family members making rose cakes, kulkuls and arisa pitha on a makeshift brick and fire chullah.

Christmas Day was a rickshaw ride to Church, with the second set of new clothes in the year (one set was for your birthday), the bonhomie, the after Church service tea under the Church portico and back home to the smells of coconut rice, kofta curry, fish fry and tomato khata wafting through the house.

Then the wait for the cousins and close family friends. We all lined up sitting cross-legged on the floor across each other on a long verandah and ate off banana leaves that had just been cut down from our trees.

The Christmas tree was up in the drawing-room, a real tree, with cotton balls as snow. They were simpler times. We did not count the gifts under the tree because there were none. We did not even know to look or ask for any. We had our new clothes on, the uncles and aunts were lounging around playing a card game called 29 with a lot of yelling and screaming and we kids were off climbing trees or playing hide and seek.

Times changed and life moved on. Most of us kids started our own traditions.

Despite the physical distance created, the tradition that I started on my 28th Christmas in a land far away from where I was born was to call home. I started my calls with my grandparents, my aunts, uncles and cousins. That touch over the phone kept my love and my memories alive.

Today, as I sit here, almost three decades later, I realized that the number of phone calls that I used to make has diminished. The voices at the other end that said, how are you baby, or how are you my love, are no longer there.

There is joy, merriment, family, friends and food all around but the absence that the heart feels has no sounds.

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Hang on to your heartstrings, honor your relationships and keep bonds alive is what Christmas is all about!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Shabnam Samuel is the author of the best-selling memoir, “A Fractured Life” and is an international motivational speaker. She is also the founder of the Panchgani Writers’ Retreat (, based out of Panchgani in India. The retreat incorporates mindful living along with creativity and wellness following Ayurveda principles, with yoga, meditation and writing workshops. Shabnam is a student at the Kerala Ayurveda Academy in Kerala, India. When she is not writing, speaking or learning, you can find her cycling somewhere in the suburbs of Maryland where she has lived for over 30 years.”

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