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Updated: December 23, 2013 15:07 IST

Christmas, next door

ANJOO SHARON NAVIN
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Illustration by Satheesh Vellinezhi
The Hindu
Illustration by Satheesh Vellinezhi

Martha was unhappy. It was going to be a lonely Christmas for her.

“This year it’s going to be a lonely Christmas day for me,” sighed Martha in dismay. Her son had called to say he would not be coming home for Christmas. Martha’s nephews were having a get-together, but they had not invited her. Martha wanted to decorate her home, but the tree and box of decorations were in the loft and she could not climb up to get it.  Martha hadn’t even hung a star in front as the bulb was faulty and the electrician had not found to time to come by.

Martha saw her neighbour with his two children. Martha wondered if she could ask him to get the decorations down. It had been six months since her neighbours have moved in but they had not spoken. “He doesn’t look friendly or helpful,” she thought. Charles looked at Martha, “She always has a grumpy look on her face. I wonder if she ever smiles,” he thought.

Dilemma

His wife had gone to Bangalore to nurse her sick mother. The children had their half-yearly exams and he was worried about where the kids would go when they got back from school.

Martha’s phone rang. It was her friend Mary, who called to lament about the ungrateful world they lived in. “Why don’t you visit your brother?” said Martha.

“I don’t want to see him. He’s an ungrateful person,” yelled Mary.

Martha went for a walk after the call.

Things were chaotic next door. Despite his best efforts, Charles had burnt the dal and vegetables. His daughter Ruby wanted him to teach her maths. His son Benny was hungry.

Just then doorbell rang. “Good afternoon sir, I am from Sweet Treats bakery. Your neighbour is not at home. Can you please take delivery of this?” said the delivery man.

“Sure”, said Charles. He kept the cake on the table.

“I’m hungry,” said Benny.

“Let’s order from a restaurant,” said Charles. He went to place the order and when he returned he was shocked to find Benny helping himself to a big slice of chocolate cake from the box. Ruby was also relishing the icing from the cake.

“Oh no!” said Charles, “That grumpy lady is going to be angry.”  Guiltily, Charles and the kids carried the half-eaten cake to Martha’s house. “I’m so sorry. My kids ate half your cake. I’ll buy you this same chocolate cake in the evening,” said Charles.

Martha laughed, “Please don’t bother. Your kids should have another slice.”

“Aunty, when are you going to decorate your house?” asked Benny. Martha explained her problem. Immediately Charles swung into action. He got the Christmas tree and decorations from the loft. He also fixed the bulb in the front and hung up the star. They helped Martha decorate the tree. “Who will take care of the children when they return from school?” asked Martha.

“They will be dropped off at a day care centre,” said Charles.

“I’ll take care of them, after school. I’ll also help them with their studies,” said Martha.

“It will be too much trouble.” 

“No, I am alone the whole day. Your kids will make good companions for me,” said Martha.

After they left, Martha looked at the name of the sender of the cake. “Oh dear, this cake is not for me,” said Martha, “It’s addressed to Martha Wilson, and I am Martha Williams.” She called the Sweet Treats bakery.

“It’s our mistake, madam. We sent another cake to Martha Wilson. This cake is our Christmas gift to you,” said the manager.

“How nice,” thought Martha. She went to the bakery and ordered five cakes to be sent out.

“Why are you sending cakes to your ungrateful nephews? They don’t visit you and didn’t invite you for their get-together,” said Mary.

“It’s Christmas time. Not the time to harbour grudges,” said Martha.

Mary thought to herself, “Martha sent cakes to her ungrateful nephews, but not to me. What an ungrateful friend I have.” 

Charles’ wife had returned and the children couldn’t stop talking about Martha aunty.

Martha was happy when Charles and his family invited her for Christmas lunch. It was not a lonely Christmas for Martha, after all. Her nephews visited her on Christmas morning with gifts, touched by her gift of cakes. She turned down their request to join them for their get-together.

Mary’s brother and his family also visited her. The feeling of hatred she held against him all these years vanished as they embraced. It was all because of the cake she sent her brother that made him visit her. Mary smiled. She had to thank Martha. After all, it was she who had sent her brother the cake from Sweet Treats bakery, giving the sender’s name as Mary.

Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar

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