3 December, 2020

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“We Wish You A Merry Christmas”

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

My Editor, I am sure, gratefully joins me in bringing you the good news that you will not have to suffer a weekly mid-week column from me beginning 2020. But oh dear, there’s a downside; you will have to endure a fortnightly version. Let’s make this last weekly offering a happy one; let’s talk about Christmas. From my childhood buried somewhere in the depths of bygone years, to parenting my own kids, to grand-fatherhood, I know that one can best behold the wonder of Christmas is in the shimmering eyes of a child. In my childhood the excitement started weeks ahead, then on X’mas eve everyone gathered at Chinnama’s for the arrival of Santa loudly clanging a great bell, an old family heirloom. Presents all round and Santa’s departure in a rickshaw, carefully tailed by the older and less credulous brats to the top of the lane, ended that part of the evening. Then it was fireworks and a grand dinner – chicken curry and mutton curry, fried meat balls, battu paahi, tasty vegetable curries, milahu thanni and rasam.

Christmas day was at my home when again the clan and friends, mostly non-Christians (I too was a rational non-believer as far as I can tell from birth – a congenital deficiency?) who didn’t have their own family functions would gather. Santa would not come again but presents beautifully wrapped would sit under a colourful lit tree. At the appropriate time my parents would call out names and hand them out to the assembled who would have to feign great delight and kiss host or hostess at some decorous spot on the anatomy. Chinnama did Ceylonese food for dinner, my mother’s fare was turkey, ham, mash, baked vegetables and of course rice would always sit somewhere on the table; and invariably it was lunch. New Year’s Day was lunch at Amama’s for as long as she was alive; after that Chooti, my youngest aunt who by then had married and littered twice, took over.

Someone thumped on the piano and everyone bellowed Christmas Carols, loudest the boom from both sides of cousin Prem. Oh and I forgot, everywhere there would be loads of ‘old stuff’, sherry and beer – we didn’t know about mulled wine in the early days but it started making an appearance later. My delight was to get Roseantie sand Rasamantie tipsy; tipsy to the point where old cigar chomping Uncle Ben would make a pass. “Chig Ben!” my grandaunts would scream to be heard over the din of the jollifications. At some point Joanis and Pabilis were retired and I took over as family Santa. I am told I was hilarious and kept not only the little runts but aunts and uncles well enthralled. A bit of a spoiler was when cousin Mano, four years my junior noticed that Santa’s shoes beneath his splendid red gown, mask, bonnet and long flowing beard seemed to resemble his elder cousin’s. After that the older cousins were accomplices, deceiving the under 10 year olds.

Why should any of this interest you? There are good reasons. Family bonds are important and will stand you in good stead through the vicissitudes of time. Second, damn the politics, let your hair down, replenish the glass and indulge in an uproarious honk in the festive season. Do the same at Sinhala and Tamil auvrudu and at anyone’s birthday. And when it’s your turn to go, tell them to marinate your carcass in the left-overs in your cellar before they set it alight or confine the dust to dust. However, I recommend that it is better to give it to a medical school (like Prof Carlo) unless it is so pickled in alcohol, like my Editor’s cadaver is likely to be, that no self-respecting anatomy laboratory will entertain it.

To come down from the clouds and end on a serious note; it is true that the spirit of Christmas can mend fractures, reconcile families and heal nations. Curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge got it wrong when he said it was all “Bah! Humbug!” Notions of “past, present and the yet to come” must give us pause; Tiny Tim is the world that we must care about; or else Marley’s ghost will follow us all the days of our lives.

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Latest comments

  • 1
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    Very merry Christmus and happy new year to you.

    • 4
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      Prof David Kumar,

      Wish you a Merry Winter Solstice, Metty Christmas and a Happy New Year too.

      We all are happy that the Sun is beginning to shine more and more on the Northern Earthlings. Southern Earthlings, wait your turn.

      Did the Catholic Church change the birthday of Jesus to fit the winter celebrations? However, they could not make the Sun go around the Earth. Joshua, sorry.

    • 0
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      @JD, ill witted fool, check the spelling of Christmas before you post comments. By the way do you even know what Christmas is all about? What is a lowlife racist like you wishing people Merry Christmas for?

  • 4
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    So you see that Marx was wrong. The Marxist leaders and intellectuals celebrate these capitalist rituals while asking the oppressed of the world to rise. Basically Pareto was right. Revolutions are nothing but upper-class intrigues where one group of Elites use the oppressed class (or caste) to fight the another group of elites.

  • 2
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    Dear Professor David,
    .
    Your Editor, without doubt, is asleep in London, by now. You show him so little respect!

    What a strange contribution from the Old Marxist. You seem to have got even the “intellectual” D. P. off guard. He’s talking his scientific philosophy below the article of the admirable Dr W.A. Wijewardena. He wouldn’t have expected such versatility from you. and doesn’t now know how to respond to the new Kumar.
    .
    I’ve been warned against trolling, but with no responses to your brilliant writing owing to your change of content (Father Christmas, indeed!), there’s been no response to your Christmas Greetings for five hours. Your article came on at exactly midnight, when the “gambada iskole mahattaya” got into his bus at midnight, and now I’m in Maharagama at 5.10 a.m. – one hour after the big fast bus dropped me off on High-Level Road.
    .
    Now that I’m somewhat closer to the capital, and reading you on Santa Klaus, I think that I’d better not sign off as “Sinhala_Man”.
    .
    However that may be, Merry Christmas!

    • 2
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      Panini,
      Your comment showed up only after my response which will appear later. I don’t know about you but, I’m pretty much certain that WAW is quite capable of digesting my ideas which you call “scientific Philosophy” – a sarcasm I guess. In any case “scientific philosophy” is a better term than the term “dogmatic” you once used b’cos dogmatic means unconditional believing – a term very much applicable to KD. No, KD’s X’mas column didn’t surprise me at all. It only shows that, as Koestler has pointed out just above, KD is also human, after all!

      BTW, I would like to wish you & the family ” A Merry X’mas & Happy New Year!

  • 3
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    Seems beautiful and pleasant memories of childhood X Mas, from a privileged background. which are in total contrast to my childhood X Mas memories.

    No presents ,No Santa , No Chicken even, let alone Roast Turkey with Cranberry Sauce ..

    No Christian families in the neighborhood to get even a free feed in the festive season.
    The only Burgher family there thought we were natives..

    Those are the fond memories which come across my mind when my family and friends celebrate X Mas big time nowadays.

    Then I also think how many Million kids are still in the same boat in Lnkawe still, when Santa comes around every year .

    Hope Nandasena will do something for them to have a pleasant X Mas at least in 2025..

    Season’s Greetings to Dr Kumar and the family.

  • 4
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    Merry Christmas Professor. Best wishes for 2020.
    *
    I look forward to continuing the debate/education in 2020!

  • 4
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    Many Thanks Professor David for your entertaining piece on family life at Christmas.

    A delightful read. A very Happy Christmas to you and your family.

  • 4
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    Merry Christmas filled with joy and prosperity , Praying for your continued blessings to all

  • 4
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    Kumar, thanks for those nostalgic memories. Those were the time I remember, I was invited to my friends houses and got into the x mas / holiday spirit, as part of their families. Though I have had these moments elsewhere abroad , it is never the same as during my childhood/adolescence. I am extremely fortunate to have friends now , from all religions who I came to know , while studying medicine in India, Though we may have different of opinions , we still are closely connected , and the bond between us has grown stronger with time, to the extend our family members too, especially children , getting know each other and build positive relationships across borders. I also vividly remember how friends of mine with whom we played cricket in Colombo, transformed almost to strangers overnight , soon after 83/84. Thanks again and “Wish your family and You A Merry X Mas and a Happy New Year.

    • 1
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      Hello chiv,
      I was not in Sri Lanka when riots took place.
      My experience in another country was very similar – it took quite a bit of time to re-establish the close relationships that were strained.
      I still can’t understand why friendships were strained in the manner they did.
      Thankfully, it is all behind us!

  • 3
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    Kumar

    We wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.

    But we also wish Gothas and his Cohorts a Christmas as this might be their last Christmas so I sing

    “Last Christmas I gave you my vote but the very next day yo blew it away. So this year to save me from tears I give my vote to someone special. ( UN).

    Gotha if you read this let me tell you Tsunami is about to hit you( Rajans Pyrric Victory). The mighty Nethenyahu even with Aemrican support is about to be taken to the Hauge on a Referral by the ICC.

    You are Guilty of Crimes against Humanity( which you dont respect) and Crime never pays. I ask GTF to start taking signatures for a PETITION to alert UN what Gotha a US Citizen is guilty of.
    Usha Sriskandaraja Merry Christmas and if you are still around and I hope your start organising a Petition to the UN as I remember you are good at that.

  • 1
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    A “merry” Christmas. The Oxford Dictionary offers alternatives such as “gaiety” and even “slightly drunk”.

    Why not, I wonder, modifiers such as “contented”, “thoughtful” or “happy”?

    “Merry” is associated with consumerism, be itof drink, food or gifts.

    Was Christ ever “merry”?

    Is this writer thoughtlessly using an all too familiar phrase: merry Christmas?

  • 3
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    By the way Colombo Telegraph I wish and your staff a Merry Christmas and Happy NewYear and Freedom from interference.

    As a side issue I fully support Mr.Ganesan of BJPs stand on the Citizenship issue of Sri Lnkan Tamils and appeal to Mr,Modi to force Gotha to devolve power to make it possible for them to return. The only Country that can make this happen using the presence of Lankan Tamils as a burden is India. Please do it as Gotha is trying to deceive everyone by using Development as a pretext to COLONISE

  • 3
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    KD,
    Not just you; we all born as non-believers. But adults kills that innocence by inserting the newborns into their religious beliefs. Not only that; the little ones are then forced to be part of cultural heritage (race, language, religion; region, etc.,) never to come out as free for the rest of the whole life. Worst is the fate of some like KD who rejoice as becoming free but unfortunately, unbeknown to themselves, become prisoners of false ideologies such as Marxism.

    I see very rarely even the sharpest minds ever wonder why thinking organisms, humans in particular with a brain larger than necessary for mere survival – the natural fate of all living organisms – engulf in such a vicious cycle. The only person I know who came to a “near success” was David Hume. Charles Darwin avoided such deep questions but his theory indirectly provided a different line of thinking that helped us understand who we really are.

    In the Darwinian world, despite the material origin, one of the evolved strategies for survival is to learn from adults who follow certain rules & practices passed from generation to generation. Humans differ from animals due only to their ability add new techniques with help the from larger brain power. However, larger brains still has limitations that it is never equipped to understand fully the “reality” out there thereby making humans also prisoners of “little learning” which “is dangerous”, according to Alexander Pope!

    My question is whether the humans can ever be able to understand the fact that our knowledge has severe limitations; that it get corrected only piecemeal basis over time; that the improvement is never linear upward movement; and that the best we can hope for is be open minded hoping for the better?

    In any case, Merry X’mas and a Happy New Year to all!

  • 6
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    I believe it was the British who foisted on us natives in a remote island below India, narratives on how the wealthy Brits celebrate this mythical event regardless of the messenger. Most Sri Lankans however, cannot afford to even read these accounts without feeling sorry for themselves as they would never have experienced these luxuries in their own childhood. Anyway, these anecdotes have been well-written and get merit in that regard.

  • 1
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    Christmas was for the Christians and their non-Christian neighbors when Dr. Kumar spent his childhood in SL. Now it is for everyone, thanks to mass media and modern development that made social mobility a meaningful reality.
    I’m not a Christian but celebrate it as a common festival with my neighbors today. I believe Christmas and its associated festivities are very good for kids, and families with kids. Let kids believe in Santa until they come of age. They need a lot of imaginations for them to develop their critical faculties specifically creativity, and Santa’s story is akin to certain ‘Jataka’ stories that Buddhists take from their ‘Book of 550 Rebirth stories of the Bodhisatva’ (based on Buddha’s previous lives), which I do not negate as complete imaginary and fantasy stories.
    Interestingly, Santa has nothing to do with Christian religion; rain deer and Santa’s trip from the North Pole is good for kids in the West and north america but in South Asia and Africa where there is no snow, Santa in his red winter attire is a bit bizarre character. Anyways, since he brings gifts wrapped in surprises kids are compelled to forget the rest!
    When you come of age there will be many Santas camouflaged in different clothes to surprise you with gifts; those gifts are wrapped with contradictory surprises such as love and hatred, wisdom and ignorance, compassion and displeasure, belief and cheat, and many more contradictory instances and phenomena. We need them to continue until we find out that all of them are not absolutely necessary requirements to survive, but curious life situations that need to be questioned, investigated, analysed, and terminated as the final solution. However, the interesting fact is that, without them this world can not survive and certainly will come to a stand still! That’s why I am interested in Buddhism.

  • 0
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    LGBTQ community Dickens isn’t preaching anything of Christianity or about the lord. If Dickens have been living & writing today, it would be different issue, or to justify him those days, provided others are willing to accept Jesus too one of them. Writers wish to create compassionate interaction within human being. There are many gods, behave in many different ways, acceptable to or violating the natural physical laws. But the ghost is an invention of a separate group, the religious bullies, to keep innocent and ignorant men under their control. In Hinduism giving and refusing, both are Karma and both causes rebirth “Nalvinai-Theevinai”. As a matter for a Hindu, Ebenezer created only one Karma while he was not giving and when he started to give he added another one. Paasam, the compassion, which is equivalent to Buddhists’ greedy, is equally deterrent to Moksha. Sanyasi didn’t want Children or Wife, or want to be indulged in watching gleaming or shimmering eyes. Giving may create a graceful man; but will that create a godly man? Isn’t a Hindu thinks an Atheist is a Hindu? Is that right to write a story to plug out Ebenezer earned wealth in the name Birth of Jesus? What did those poor ate on all other 364 days on which Jesus was not born on a year? Which Ebenezer paid for their meal? What was the duty of the government in Dickens time? There wasn’t any democracy in Dickens time?
    Merry Christmas.

  • 2
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    Dear Prof David,
    Thank you very much for the laughs!
    You have always been an inspiration to me since our Peradeniya days!!
    May I wish you a Happy and a productive 2020 with good health!!

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