Thursday, July 31, 2008

Do They Know It's Not Christmas?

I seem to be colliding with Christmas. I’m not sure if there is some rupture in the time continuum or perhaps I am playing the lead role in my very own version of Groundhog Day set to a “Best of the Christmas Classics” soundtrack. In the past few years, India has been invaded by that ultimate symbol of unimaginative middle class suburbia, the shopping mall, and just a few short kilometers away from my front door stands the main entrance to the one of the shiniest and upscale ones in Delhi, Select CityWalk. Like most self respecting malls the world over, there is always music wafting through the air and more times than not, it is the instrumental versions of all your favorite Christmas Classics. I first noticed it when I arrived back from Europe in February. I was trying to shop and for some reason found myself humming “Winter Wonderland”. It took me a few seconds to realize that the music I my head was actually not in my head, but coming out of the speaker system. I immediately phoned Ankit to check the date and time and sure enough, it was a couple of days before Valentines. I chalked it up to an oversight on whoever was in charge of supervising the CD player.

But after several visits during several months, I noticed not only do they love their Christmas Classics at Select CityWalk, I hear them all over the place. Always an instrumental version. Ringtones, doorbells, ambient music in Chinese restaurants. I’m dreaming of a fried wonton…

At every major intersection in the city, every time the cars stop at a light, out come the vendors selling everything from one-time best selling novels to current issues of Vogue, old issues of IKEA catalogues (not that there is a singe IKEA in India), sticky stars to put on the ceiling, hand towels in assorted colors, tennis racket shaped mosquito zappers, steering wheel covers and on it goes, each week bringing with it a new theme. A few weeks ago, that theme happened to be dancing Winnie-the-Pooh thingies in complete Santa gear. It was 104 degrees outside. In the shade.

A few weeks later, Manuel and I went out to dinner and passed a shiny silver “Happy New Year” banner hanging across the doorway of a restaurant. We decided not to eat there just in case the food was not any fresher than the décor. We opted for another place to eat and all through the meal, in that really annoying sound of a toy keyboard was a looping medley of poorly played Christmas carols.

I finally came to the conclusion that as Christmas is only celebrated in India by a tiny portion of the population, nobody knows or recognizes these songs any more than I would recognize the song about a little dreidel, dreidel, dreidel that was made out of clay. But today, there I was, shopping at Select CityWalk as “Do You Know The Way To San Jose” played on the centrally located piano, which happens to be one of those that plays on it’s own and the keys move as well as though the ghost of Liberace had decided to spend a day of his afterlife hanging at the local mall. Anyway, I was convinced that the mall had finally gone all Grinchy and got rid of Christmas, at least until the holidays rolled around in a few months. And then I walked into Tommy Hilfiger.

Today is July 31. I walked into Tommy Hilfiger as everything was “up to 70% off” and suddenly I was slapped across the face by George Michael. From what I can gather, last Christmas he gave someone his heart and the very next day they gave it to someone else. This was not some musical background ambient music, this was full Christmas lyrics. At high volume. I was stunned. My whole theory went out the window. I think I might spend the night downloading some Hanukkah songs to burn on CD for them and they can give Christmas a bit of a holiday... Just for a week or so...

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