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Thursday, December 10, 2009

CHILDHOOD MEMORIES OF CHRISTMAS TIME IN KGF ..4

On Christmas morning, trays of Christmas goodies were distributed to our friends and neighbours. We children dressed up in all their finery would be entrusted with this task. All the servants, the sweepers and other helpers would be given a ‘bakshis’ or money gift, also clothes and Christmas sweets. The men would also get a quarter bottle of booze.
We usually attended Midnight Mass dressed in our new Christmas frocks, specially tailored for the great day and bundled up in our jackets and coats as it was very cold in KGF in December.

A small mini fair would invariably come up outside the church gates, with vendors selling balloons, crackers, cheap plastic toys, plastic sunglasses, plastic spinning tops, bugles, trumpets, little bamboo sticks with balloons attached, etc., which we would gleefully buy and enjoy. After midnight Mass, we'd sometimes visit our firend's houses for a small sing song session and have some cake and wine or just go home and do the same thing.
As Christmas day was usually hectic with visiting and socializing, most of the cooking was done beforehand on Christmas Eve, except for the turkey or chicken that was left to slow roast on a low fire or ‘Dum’ over night. Other Anglo-Indian delicacies such as Oxtail Vindaloo, Tongue Roast, Trotters etc., would be left to cook the whole night on low heat, so that by Christmas morning the meat was succulent and tender. We normally woke up late on Christmas morning and then enjoyed a Hearty breakfast of Eggs, sausages and bacon. Christmas morning invariably had family and friends visiting us and enjoying some of the Christmas goodies prepared by my mum.

A typical Christmas lunch at our house was usually a large meal comprising of a Meat Pullao, Chicken Curry, Stuffed Roast turkey or Chicken Roast, Pork Vindaloo, Duck Vindaloo, steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, bread, dinner rolls, Christmas pudding, Cakes, Sweets, etc, etc, all washed down with a glass or two of Wine or a peg or two of Whiskey, brandy or other liquor. There was always fun and banter round the festive table and small tiffs as to who would get the ‘lucky bones’, the gizzards, ‘the pope’s nose’, ‘the chicken neck’ etc.

My mum always served the Christmas pudding cold at the end of the Christmas Lunch. Just before serving it, my dad would pour a glass of brandy or Rum over it and he'd then light it with a match stick. The lovely blue flame for those few minutes, would encompass the pudding and the heat would help the rum or brandy to soak in. We usually ate it plain or with Fresh cream.

We usually spent Christmas evening visiting our grand parents, Aunts and Uncles and cousins at White Haven in Robertsonpet.

The 31st of December was another occasion to celebrate. A huge new year Ball was normally held in the Skating Rink to bring in the New Year, and just like the Christmas Shows local Anglo-Indian Bands or bands from Madras or Bangalore were engaged to play at it. A huge bonfire was lit outside the Skating Rink and an effigy of an old man representing the old year was thrown into the bonfire at midnight and firecrackers were lit to signal the start of the New year and fresh begininnings.

Friday, December 4, 2009

CHRISTMAS TIME IN KGF..3

The month of December also saw us getting ready for Christmas, shopping for dress materials and visiting Pansy Tailor to get our dresses tailored. We normally had 3 new dresses or outfits for the festive season. One dress for the Nandydroog Mine Christmas Tree Function, one for Christmas day and one for New Year’s day. Some times our parents made a trip to Bangalore to buy the material for our Christmas dresses and also to buy our shoes from Reliance Shoe Shop on Commercial Street in case we didn’t buy them during our visit to Bangalore in September for Our Lady’s feast. Our Christmas shoes would invariably be a white pair so as to match all our new frocks. In case they couldn’t fit in a trip to Bangalore, then we went shopping for dress material in Town. Mohanlal, Sohans, Bhora and some other shops had quite a good selection of dress materials to choose from.

Pansy Tailor was the most sought after ladies tailor and dress maker in KGF. He was always deluged with stitching orders for dresses this time of the year, by almost all the Anglo-Indians in KGF for the various dances and for the Christmas. He warned all his customers to bring him their Christmas tailoring orders before the middle of November so that he was able to plan his schedule. He was a fantastic dressmaker and never disappointed anyone, most often sitting late into the night with his assistant Gopal to help him so as to deliver the dresses to his customers on the dates he promised to give them. Pansy Tailor’s actual name was Eshwar Rao, but since he spoke English with a funny accent, and walked like a lady, he was nicknamed ‘Pansy Tailor’ and the name just stuck. In fact we still refer to him as Pansy tailor even though he’s now no more.

My mum would start the preparation of the traditional sweets and treats that are a part and parcel of Christmas a fortnight before Christmas. Kalkals and Rose Cookies, Fruit Cakes, Coconut Sweets, the Christmas Pudding, Bole Cake, Dodol, Beveca, Marzipan Sweets, Peanut Fudge, Cashew nut Fudge, Murkus or Rice Crispies, Adarasams or Fried rice pancakes etc., were some of the goodies that were prepared in abundance by her. The house and neighbourhood would smell enticingly. One of my strongest childhood memories, is this enticing aroma of the preparation of these Christmas Goodies.

We children would wait for the Christmas holidays to begin so that we could all help mummy in the preparation of the Kulkuls, Rose Cookies, etc, We’d all sit around the dining table and each of us would take a lump of dough and spread it on a fork to make as many kulkuls as possible with it. These kulkuls were like small shells. To make other shapes, we would also roll out the dough and cut out various shapes like hearts, clubs, diamonds, etc with the cutters. It was fun competing with each other to see who made the most. Mummy would fry the kulkuls as soon as we completed a good number, till all the kulkuls were fried and a huge heap was kept on the table to cool. She’d then ice them when they were cold by pouring hot sugar syrup on the kukkuls. We had a lot of fun helping mummy and sometimes even our non-Christian friends would join us and help us in this happy task. Of course, a good portion of the fried kulkuls would go into our mouths while helping to make them.

Making the Doldol at Christmas time was especially exciting for all of us as this particular sweet dish needed more than 3 hours to prepare and had to be stirred constantly. We would all take turns to stir the gooey mixture till it reached the right consistency. Making coconut sweets was another treat. All of us would fight to scrape the residue left over in the pan.

We also helped to churn the butter and sugar for the Christmas Pudding and the Fruit cakes. In those days there were no blenders or beaters and we churned the cake dough with the ‘Dhal Churner Stick’ or the ‘Mathu’ as it was called. We had to wait for our turn as each one wanted to put their fingers in the bowl while churning and lick the cake dough as it was getting smooth.

I mustn’t forget to mention the Grape Wine and Ginger Wine that mummy made specially for Christmas. She would soak the Grapes and sugar in the month of October so that it was ready for Christmas. The wine would be strong and sweet and mummy would add a dash of rum to it to give it a bit of punch. She also made Ginger Wine at Christmas time. This Ginger Wine wasn’t exactly a wine but more like a thick concoction that acted as an aid in digestion for all the rich food at Christmas.