My parents would laugh & say "Santa doesn't exist Gayu. Go to sleep."; which would make my resolve even stronger to stay up all night & wait for him. Years went by & I still clung on to the hope of meeting Santa.
Zoom forward to Christmas of 2011, the entire family reunited at Trivandrum. My cousin was preggers & the baby was due, end of December. Being a pregnant woman is not an easy task. I still remember the helpless look on her face when we would all sit around her, crack jokes, laugh like hyenas & plan what to eat for our next meal, while she was stuck motionless & big bellied in her designated hospital room.
The doctor finally announced that the baby may arrive on 01-01-'11. Although we had all planned our Christmas holidays for the baby that year, the focus slowly but steadily, shifted from the child to food (It's a family problem. Food is our biggest distractor. Show us a plate of mutton biryani or beef chilli from Azad in the midst of a war with bloodshed & gun fights, we would without a moment of hesitation if I may add, choose the biryani & the beef)
We decided to go to the Leela in Kovalam for a breakfast buffet. We all woke up the next morning by 5AM to pay our respect to the food Gods. We drove all the way from our home in Kumarapuram to Kovalam, for close to 20 kms, in the freezing 6AM Trivandrum breeze. The wait, the sleep deprivation & the long drive was absolutely worth it, because the Leela property was stunning. Surrounded by cliffs & the Kovalam beach on all sides, the view was breath-taking. We were guided by the hotel staff to an outdoor, pool-facing restaurant with the view of a gorgeous beachy Trivandrum.
What followed next, was one of the seven deadly sins as listed by the Bible - shameless gluttony. We ate like we'd never seen food & over-stuffed our faces with every last dish on the buffet. "Eat Gayu, eat. We are counting on you to make this experience paisa vasool", goaded my brothers.
We stumbled out of the restaurant after an hour, in a deep food coma & with the news that the baby had finally arrived. We all rushed to the hospital to meet the bundle. My first glimpse of her was in my mother's hands. She was covered in white & was sleeping peacefully. Our baby! The first baby from the next generation! I was an aunt!
"Gayu, you came here as a little girl & now you're leaving as an old lady, an aunty.", teased my uncle. I realised then that maybe this is what Christmas cheer is all about. Babies, food OD & a crazy, happy, loud family. Santa can keep dilly-dallying his visit to me. I've made my peace with his ditching ways.