All I Want For Christmas Is...

...a box full of Christmas Movies, nothing else.

Santa is just a costume and gifts are just excuses; using these two, all people want is to spread love.

This may sound hysterical but its true.

I read a Christmas based book, The Gift by Cecilia Ahern (who now, has become one of my very favorite authors). Its a beautiful book, and I recommend it to anyone who's as crazy about Christmas and lesson-teaching stories as I am. This is an extract from the book: (note how vividly she describes everything, and how true all of it is)

'On Christmas Morning, an air of calm settles outside. The emptiness on the streets doesn't instill fear; in fact it has an opposite effect. It's a picture of safety, and, despite the seasonal chill; there's warmth. For varying reasons, for every household this day of every year is just spent inside. While outside is sombre, inside is a world of bright, frenzied colour, a hysteria of ripping wrapping paper and flying coloured ribbons.
Christmas music and festive fragrances of cinnamon and spice of all things nice fill the air. Exclamations of glee, of hugs and thanks, explode like party streamers. These Christmas days and indoor days; not a sinner lingering outside, for even they have a roof over their heads.'
In my old school, on the walls along the staircase, there were quotes and Thought-for-the-day's pasted. And I read the quotes each time I passed. One of them I recall clearly, and a few days ago, I realized its true-ness.

Its nice to be important, but its more important to be nice.

This Christmas, lets try to be a little nicer. Family, friends, strangers, anyone.


If you could wish for one thing this Christmas, what would you wish for?

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Bonjour India!

I was lucky enough to be a part of the twelve student group who were sent to the FIRC- French Information Research Centre. (Thanks Daggu :))

Little did I know, as I climbed into the twelve seater minivan, that I'd learn something entirely different than what was expected.

We were there to witness a story narration by a professional French Storyteller. Now, I've never met a storyteller. I didn't even know that a profession like that even existed. Telling stories for a living? My kind of thing!
As we walked inside the gates, I saw the chairs and tables covered in clean, white linen and multi-colored satin bows on them. There was a round table and chairs around it. I've always, always, always, wanted to sit at round tables covered with white linen. And there should be a champagne glass in front of me. I've seen those only at weddings, and somehow, that mood isn't created. But those chairs around the tables? For me? Yay!

And then I saw around twenty-five little French kids, all dressed as if they were out for a picnic. There were other schools too, but they naturally caught my attention. They, as I found out later, were the kids from Lycee Francaise, which is a French school for children from classes sixth to eighth. The event was pretty formal and they were running around, playing and I immediately smiled, seeing what they were doing. We stood, as we were a little early, looking around, and surprisingly, they approached us. First came the boys, and alomst all of them had golden hair (not blonde) and the Zac Efron hairstyle which I totally LOVE! This one:

Only less weirder. So I couldn't stop staring at them. I was too nervous too actually talk to them so I let the others talk.
And then, behind me, this group of French girls come and say, "Quelle est votre classe?" Which is your class? I look nervously at Shubhra. " Dixième," she tells me. I repeat.

We look at each other for a while...a little more broken French.
"Je t'aime ta jupe, " I like your skirt, I tell one girl.
"Merci, merci", she says happily.
Then they go back. We roamed around for a bit, as we were early.
And then I noticed something- there was French Jazz music playing in the background. And the little French kids, they started dancing! Just like that.
There were many people there, all of them older, and they didn't care. They started dancing, doing weird, funny little actions.
Just like that.
I couldn't take my eyes off them. Would I dance with all those people looking at me? No. Why?

Finally, we took our seats, and this French boy turns around and looks at me. "Bonjour," I say. He grins and holds up two fingers, the victory sign. These kids were COOL.
The event started and whenever anybody on the stage said Bonjour, just as a form of greeting, all those French kids would shout Bonjour back.
The group-song competition started...first up was our school and the name of the song was announced.
And surprisingly, all the French kids started hooting and giggling. "Whats so funny?" I asked them in French. One of them said managed to squeeze in between giggles,"Sarkozy...Carla Bruni."
I couldn't make anything of this answer until later I came to know that that song was dedicated to Nicholas Sarkozy by Carla Bruni.
Those kids were giggling.
Our team was singing, it was a slow, romantic, melodious song. Everybody was listening quietly. And one of the French kids, he started clapping. Slowly, with the beat, holding up his hands. He looked at us and gestured to us to do the same. Clap for our team.
There were students there in the age group of fifteen to eighteen years. There were college students and post-graduates. There were teachers and adults.
And here is this twelve year old foreigner telling us to clap, cheer for our own team while everyone listened quietly. Obviously, when the song ended, we did cheer. But that was different. Cheering for a stranger, and sincerely, is much, much different.
It was the French kids' turn then. They ran to the stage, pushing each other. All of them wanted to be in front. As I looked at them, I saw myself. I. Group song. Pushing. Laughing. Not caring that we're on the stage.
They sang enthusiastically, tapping their feet on the ground, almost jumping. After the song ended, they clapped for themselves, and one of them even jumped off the stage and fell face down on the grass. I couldn't stop laughing. (No, he did it intentionally!)
Another school's turn. They became very excited when the heard they would be singing Champs-Elysees, a popular French song. They sang along to every word, encouraging everyone to join in.
Then was the time for story narration.
One of them, Clarisse was the name, would be narrating a story. They cheered for her, and they cheered good. "Clarisse! Clarisse!", they yelled, clapping their hands. "Relaxe! Relaxe..." they kept saying...and it was so refreshing. When everybody sat on their seats, prim and proper, these children were jumping up and down, supporting their friend.
She narrated the story beautifully, avec action et al.
Then came, Muriel, the professional French story-teller. Muriel here, had vivid, red, curly hair and she wore a so many beads and necklaces and bangles. But the way that woman narrated a story- awesome. She mostly narrated folktales. She traveled all over the world and collected folktales from different cultures. What inspired her to choose a profession like that, somebody asked.
Because, she said smiling wickedly, when I was twenty, I was much in love with a guy who loved stories.
She was fifty seven now.
She told us mostly folktales, about devils and angels and heaven and hell. About how the city of Los Angeles was built and why people say 'Uh-hun.'
"Its all about," she said, "finding the right story for the right person at the right moment."
The French kids were the perfect listeners. They gasped and 'oohed' and 'aahed' at the right time and every once in a while, they'd raise their hands and go, "Madame! Madame!" and ask questions. Even in the middle of the story. And nobody minded.
Then there was a play, La Petite Chaperon Rouge. The Little Red Riding Hood.
"Thank you everyone for coming. Now you can all proceed to have lunch, we have chocolate croissants and hot chocolate and sandwiches waiting for you."
And the French kids exclaimed and ran towards the food.

And at that moment, right then, I wanted to be one of them.
I had to be one of them.
I had to.
They were so...carefree, unrestricted.
So unaffected, it was amazing.

I wanted to be able to go upto older, intimidating (?) strange teenagers and talk to them casually.
I wanted to to dance on French Jazz, not caring that a group of snotty teenagers were staring at me.
I wanted to make the 'V' sign AND look cool.
I wanted to hoot after hearing the Bruni-Sarkozy song.
I wanted to cheer for my team, absolutely not caring what anyone thought of my screams.
I wanted to jump and laugh on stage and not feel conscious.
I wanted to jump off from the stage, rock-star style.
I wanted to yell my friend's name among a meeting of serious, sophisticated people.
I wanted to jump because there was hot chocolate for lunch.
I wanted all that.

Because they were happy people. The real happy.

And I'd settle for NOTHING less.

Where has the heart gone? Where has the spontaneity of actions gone?


*raises empty wine glass*

To the French Spirit!


P.S. There's a chilly nip, or rather, Christmas in the air. Bring on the warmth, whatever may be the source. ;)

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