Friday, January 15, 2016

The One with the two Secret Santas

"Secret Santa is a Western Christmas tradition in which members of a group or community are randomly assigned a person to whom they anonymously give a gift."
This is how Wikipedia defines 'Secret Santa'. I have vague memories of having heard of or read about this tradition on American TV series and the Internet. But come December 2015, I saw this amazing activity unfold before my very own eyes at the Young India Fellowship. It turned out to be an immensely beautiful way of spreading love and cheer around Christmas, and I'm sure the world would benefit greatly from more people adopting it.

Here's how we executed it: an excel sheet was sent to everyone, and those who wished to take part in the activity put in their names. A random assortment algorithm was then used to assign one Secret Santa to each person, so that every person got one present and in turn gave one present. It was overwhelming to see a large majority of my batch sign up for it - it reflected the deep sense of giving and sharing that the people around me harboured. The deadline for the exchange of gifts was mutually set at 22nd December, since that was the last day for most Fellows on campus before leaving for the holidays. For over a week after this, there ensued on campus a heart-warming gift exchange drive, mostly in the form of surprises springing up on people in random places at random times. Some would wake up in the morning to find a present and a beautifully written card/note on their doorstep or table. Some would receive presents from messengers. Some would return to their rooms in the evening to find a surprise waiting for them on the bed. Some lucky ones even received a series of presents for each day in the run-up to 22nd! It was an utter delight to watch the entire spectacle unfold.

I was to play Secret Santa to this wonderful girl on campus whom I really admired for her lively spirit and lone-wolf-like capabilities. So I researched a bit on her likes and passions, and then went back to Delhi to fish for presents. I had less time at hand, so I could only muster up 3 little presents, but I was sure she would love them. Back on campus, I found different ways to send them out to her. My simple efforts didn't go in vain, I'm glad, because I was later told by my messengers that she really liked all her presents. I did want her to know who her Secret Santa was - I'm sure you understand the temptation of receiving a simple thanks - but I didn't tell her. I'd heard this activity was all about the joy of giving and receiving, so I thought the identity of the benefactor didn't matter as long as both the giver and receiver got happiness out of it. Which I in fact did, because as my friends would surely tell you, I love giving out presents!

But I love receiving them too. Who doesn't, right? It's a wonderful feeling to be taken by surprise as you receive something you weren't expecting in that moment. That is why I was beside myself with excitement ever since I'd signed up for Secret Santa. I wanted to have the best Santa ever, one who would know the kind of person I am, and then surprise me with something I'd love. That sounds like a far-fetched fantasy now, but oh well. That's what I thought back then. And so I lay in wait, day after day, watching everyone around me receive their presents while my Santa took his/her time. Gradually I was convinced that my Santa had forgotten me. All my excitement had been in vain, because my present was clearly not coming. I may have bitched about my Santa to a couple of friends too. I was exceedingly disappointed, leaving campus on the 22nd without stories of how my Santa took my breath away and all that jazz. I felt sad; my Christmas wasn't going to be all that happy this year, I thought. But then I told myself that the joy of giving was way above that of receiving, and I was happy again. Then I went to Gujarat and had a great vacation, and almost forgot all about Santa.

I visited campus after returning from Gujarat, just for one night so that I could work on an essay submission in peace. The campus was deserted, and thus the perfect setting for spending a quiet night away from all the noise of city life. I entered my room, lost in thought, and what did I find? A nicely rolled up pink thing sitting on my bed along with a scribbled note. My heart took a leap as I rushed forward and grabbed it - it was a very pretty Yoga mat. I was a little taken aback! You ask why? Well, it doesn't sound nearly as funny now, but in that moment the first thing that came to my mind was - ummm, is this to tell me that I'm fat and need to exercise? I didn't take it in the wrong way, no. I was rather amused by the thought. I instinctively knew the present was from a harebrained person who didn't think that deep into the present as I had. The handwriting on the note - rather child-like - gave me the feeling that it was a guy. Even though I was happy to have finally got my present from Santa, I was also a little miffed at having got it so late and there being nothing written in the note except, "with love and affection, Santa". I was really desperate to know who it was, so to lure them into owning up, I put up a status on Facebook that read:
My Secret Santa be like "Yo Mahima so fat, let her Christmas present be a Yoga Mat."
The status caught on with friends; everyone liked the witty humour. And then days went by and I never got to know who it was. Until on 3rd January, a friend on campus revealed to me that it had been him. He apologised for any discomfort the idea of a yoga mat may have caused me, and I in turn assured him that it was all in a light vein, and I in fact was sorry for having put it up on Facebook. But then came the big revelation: He wasn't my assigned Secret Santa at all! He was just this nice guy who had decided to play Secret Santa to a few of his friends on campus without having been assigned the obligation to do so by anyone. I was floored! Never before had I experienced anybody do such a benign thing for me. I felt even worse now for having complained about my Secret Santa earlier. My dejection with the whole thing had been answered by something I wouldn't have expected in a hundred years. And so, with that single act of kindness, my New Year kicked off to an utterly beautiful start.

Bad photo, but really pretty yoga mat. Thank you Secret Santa!

Is that cute or what?
The same evening, I was returning to my room after dinner. Little did I know another surprise awaited me - a gorgeous green dupatta with gold trimming, might I say ALSO ROLLED-UP, along with an exquisite burnt-edged card with the most lovely wishes scribbled on it. I instinctively knew it was my closest friend Nikita's doing, and yet I was truly amazed. Lots of hugging followed. And guess what? She did not forget to include a pun either. "This is not a yoga mat!" So, so her.

I love you, Nikita. Thank you.

A couple of days later, I was woken up from my precious mid-day nap by a pretty little messenger who claimed to have brought me a present from my Secret Santa - a silky soft, deep blue scarf and a pair of rustic earrings (both of which I've been obsessively wearing since that day). As it turned out, my good ol' Santa had handed her the present on the 22nd. But I had left campus by then and she forgot all about it after a few days. And hence, my sweet Santa's present reached me only after the first week of January. But this time round, instead of miffing me, it actually had me all excited; it actually made me feel kind of privileged. How many people get their Christmas presents well into the new year? I did. So thank you, Santa. I know who you are, and I love you for this.

Sheer beauty!!!

It all worked out best for me in the end, didn't it? People often ask me what the basis of my unfaltering belief in the justice of the universe is. THIS, people. This, and many more such events that keep happening to me all the time, make me believe that there is a fairness to the working of the world which makes life worth living. While I sat ruing that I did not get a Christmas treat from my Santa, somewhere in the world there were three Christmas presents just waiting to reach me. Is that not a Christmas miracle? I like to think it is.

So it's right, isn't it, what they say? All's well that ends well. On that hopeful note, here's wishing you a happy new year, folks! May you give and receive lots of love, happiness and (of course) presents this year.

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1 comment:

Rajeev Moothedath said...

Sweet little post.Happy new year!