Children

When St. Nick moved in

The surfeit of good deeds this time of the year left us in no doubt as to who was behind it. We just had to catch him in action.

We were excited our December holidays had begun. While playing in Anil’s house, the conversation invariably turned to school.

“I am glad Rags is leaving. I don’t think I could have sat through another term with him,” said Anil.

“Yes...he and his ‘a squared plus b squared’ in his nasal drag,” I agreed.

“I think you guys are being mean,” said Sasha, the brainy one. “Just because you were all so bad in Math.”

That shut us up. Just then, a van drove up to the house next door.

“Someone’s moving in next door,” I remarked.

* * *

When St. Nick moved in

Ours is a small colony and everyone knows everyone else out here. This has its advantages and disadvantages. During the holidays we hung out in each other’s houses and whiled away our time. Christmas was round the corner and in many of the houses cakes were being baked. We would “accidentally” drop by and get to taste the wonderful cakes and goodies.

One day, we were at Aunty Swamidas’ when we heard the story about her maid Meena, whose daughter was an avid reader. Meena said, her daughter, Aruna, was always asking for new books to read and she didn’t know where to get them. Then, this morning, when her daughter stepped out, she found five books on her doorstep, with a note saying it was for her! No one knew who had gifted the books.

The next morning, we were playing in the park when we overheard Ramu, the tea seller telling his customers he had got the money for his mother’s medical treatment. “How did you manage that?” asked one man. Ramu smiled and said he had found a cover in his tea shop with the money in it.

In the evening, we were taking a stroll, when we saw the conservancy workers. Surprisingly, they were all sporting gloves!

“Akka, how did you get gloves?” asked Savithri. All of us knew that they had been asking for gloves for some time now.

She smiled and said, “Someone left it for us on our carts!”

We heard more such incidents of good deeds.

Food for thought

The five of us got together. “This needs some investigation,” I said.

“All of a sudden good deeds are being done,” said Anil.

Sasha said, “Can you remember when it started?”

Aarti said, “Yeah, sure. The day we were eating cake at Aunty Swamidas.”

Sasha was unconvinced.

“You want a date huh?” I asked.

With an exaggerated sigh she said, “No. It began after Anil’s new neighbour arrived.”

We digested that new piece of information. And then we realised it was true.

“So, what are they like?” asked Suman.

“I don’t know,” said Anil. “I’ve never seen any of them. But, I think there’s just one person.”

“We need to find out more,” said Sasha. “It could be St. Nick..”

We gasped, “St. Nick!”

“If that’s St. Nick, then Krampus can’t be far behind,” said Aruna.

“Krampus?” I asked.

“Yes, he hangs out with St. Nick and doles out punishments.”

“But, that’s in Austria!” said Sasha, dismissively.

“And, St. Nick is Indian?” asked Savitri sarcastically.

Before the two could get into an argument we intervened. We decided to stake out the house.

When St. Nick moved in

Undercover

The first day we studied the house. The curtains were drawn, and the windows shut. There seemed to be no movement indoors. Emboldened by the silence, we moved closer. We climbed the gate and looked in. Still no activity.

“We have to move in,” I said.

So, we jumped the compound wall and hid behind the bushes. We were pushing and shoving each other to get a closer look at the house.

Suddenly, from behind us came a voice, “And who are you?” It was loud and deep and reverberated through the garden. We turned to look, lost our footing and fell in one big heap. We were so scared that we scampered to our feet and scurried off without a backward glance.

“Krampus for sure,” said Anil.

“Not a chance,” said Sasha. “If it was he would have beaten us.”

So, we were back on the watch.

We decided that we get onto the terrace and then find our way into the house. So, we climbed up the mango tree in Anil’s house and onto the terrace. The door leading into the house was old and weather beaten. We were trying to open it when all on a sudden the door flew open.

“And, what do you think you are doing here?” asked a stern voice.

We stood together, our heads hanging in shame. “We thought you were Kram....” began Aarti, and got a kick on her shin.

“We came to see St....” said Sasha, who also got a kick.

“Come down all of you.”

We were herded down the stairs, sure that Krampus would thrash us. When we reached the front room, the voice said, “Sit.” The five of us huddled together on the three-seater. Then there was silence. After an interminably long time, we peeked a look up. We were surprised to find ourselves looking into the laughing face of a young lady.

“Now tell me what you are up to.”

One by one, we stammered and stuttered our way through. She listened to us, a smile playing on her lips. When we were done, she asked, “So am I St. Nick or Krampus?”

“Er...St. Nick...” I ventured. I got a kick in my shin, and Sasha whispered hoarsely that St. Nick “was a man.”

“Well, I am neither. I moved in a couple of weeks ago and then I fell ill. I was in bed all this while.”

When we asked why she had chosen to move here, she said, “I’ve got a job here. I am the new math teacher at the school down the road.”

We groaned.

Post Script: The good deeds in our colony continued. Then one day, close to Christmas we passed the club house when we saw a Wall of Kindness. People had donated clothes, shoes, books and more. There was also a slot for requests.

We had solved our Christmas puzzle.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 5:52:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/when-st-nick-moved-in/article25790093.ece

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