Announcing a New Book: Indian Christmas

It’s been a while since I was invited to contribute to an anthology. But this one, as soon as I was told about it, sounded too good to pass up. Speaking Tiger, who’ve published my two latest books (Woman to Woman: Stories and The Garden of Heaven), have compiled this very unique, eclectic and interesting non-fiction collection of essays, memoirs, hymns, and more, and I have not just an essay in it, but an introduction as well.

Indian Christmas, published by Speaking Tiger

The essay I wrote for Indian Christmas, Cake ki Roti at Dua ka Ghar, is all about my memories of Christmases from when I was growing up: the spice-scented, fruit-filled cake; the biscuity cake ki roti, which was a byproduct of large-scale cake baking at the local baker’s; the Hindi and Punjabi Christmas carols; the home-made but much-loved Christmas decorations we crafted out of crepe paper, cotton wool and tinsel. In my introduction to the book, I discussed Christmas beyond just what I have experienced: Christmas in the many and varied ways in which it is celebrated across India.

And this, the diversity of Christmas celebrations in different parts of the country, is what comes through most vividly in Indian Christmas. Some of India’s finest writers, form Jerry Pinto to Easterine Kire, from Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar to Rabindranath Tagore, are represented here. There are reminiscences about Christmas from far and wide: a description, for instance, of the celebrations at Bow Barracks in Kolkata; a Syrian Christian Christmas; a community Christmas in a  rice-growing Naga village in the highlands of Manipur. Easterine Kire remembers her mother and her contemporaries baking Christmas cakes in old war-era ammunition boxes; Anupama Raju provides a mouthwatering recipe for what her family refers to as a ‘vindalee’, their own take on the quintessential vindaloo.

There are amusing anecdotes, there are poems. There are Punjabi tappe-boliyaan about Christmas, and lots of photographs of Christmas in its many forms across India, from little children dressed as Santa Claus, being ferried to school in a rickshaw in Fazilka; to the exquisite street decorations in Aizawl; from a wonderfully traditional set of crib figurines bought by Jerry Pinto in Ranchi, to photos of carollers and worshippers in the Garo Hills, Jharkhand, Kerala, Kolkata…

While I loved the many insights into Christmas celebrations—so many of them similar to my own, yet so many different, too—what also proved really heartwarming was the lesson of syncretism and communal harmony that comes through so strongly in many of the essays. It’s not as if Indian Christmas is a dhobi list of a bunch of Indian Christians writing about their festival; there are plenty of people here, like Rabindranath Tagore, Damodar Mauzo and Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, who are not Christian but who have wonderful insights to offer into their relationships with Christmas.

To me, reading Indian Christmas was like being at a Christmas get-together: a warm, friendly place, with happy faces around, people sharing joy and good memories.

Indian Christmas is available at Speaking Tiger’s website. You can also order it at your local bookstores (or, if you live outside India, let me know and I can offer recommendations of Indian bookstores that ship abroad). Of course, it’s also available on Amazon India, here.

Happy Christmas, and here’s wishing you all the joy, peace, and goodwill this festival represents.

20 thoughts on “Announcing a New Book: Indian Christmas

  1. My hard copy arrived yesterday, and I’m making my way — getting something like this to read is a great Christmas present for me! Really enjoying whatever I’ve read so far. And to start with Tagore – wow!!!

    I’d love to see a picture of the book-tree :-)

    Liked by 1 person

      • Finished the book; a great read. I must confess, after a time, given the sheer gluttony I’m indulging in during this season, also reading about it in many essays became overwhelming :-) Perhaps as a result, in the later part I found the non-food-centric essays more interesting. I’m sure I’ll have a different take on this when I re-read it mid-2023. But of course food is such a big part of all Indian festivals. And maybe of all festivals, why only Indian? Food is love.

        Putting together a collection like this must have been solid work. Do you know all the authors personally? (A fine one I am to ask, when *I* don’t know *you* personally! At least we have one common acquaintance, I think: K Srilata.)

        Liked by 1 person

        • I can sympathise with you – I too think the food essays (or essays with food predominating) were overwhelmingly the tone of the book. For me too, the essays that weren’t about food (Veio Pou’s and Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar’s pieces, in particular) were especially memorable.

          I do know some of these authors personally. Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar and Jaya Bhattacharjee Rose I have known for years; Renuka Chatterjee (who transcribed and translated the interview about the Jharkhandi village festivities) is my publisher at Speaking Tiger. There are some others – like Nilima Das and Elizabeth Kuruvilla – whom I’ve become acquainted with more recently. But, I must clarify: I came to this project very late; all the work of approaching the writers, and curating the collection, was already done by the time I joined it.

          And you know Srilata! What a small world. She’s a wonderful person.

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  2. Congratulations on your new publication!!

    I am sure it would be both interesting and informative to read about the Christmas festivities and anecdotes from different parts of the country.
    Can we expect the Kindle version anytime soon?

    A Merry Christmas to you and your family!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much. And, a very merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family as well!

      Yes, the book should be available on Kindle too, soon. It usually takes a few weeks for that to happen.

      Like

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