It was my first Christmas in America. I was working in a software project for IBM Corporation in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
The village in West Bengal, India, where I was born and grew up was astonishingly beautiful, it had endless open space, medium to large sized ponds with blooming water lilies, inundated lands covered with blooming water hyacinths, rice fields, endless green meadows covered with Kans flowers forming undulating waves due to wind. During the day the grasslands were the foster homes of butterflies, dragonflies, and grasshoppers and in the night it turned into foster homes of fireflies, appeared like millions of twinkling stars suddenly dropped on the land; very early in the morning deafening chirping sounds of all kinds of birds made it difficult to sleep after sunrise and repetition of the same during the sunset acted like a reminder to the children to stop playing and to return home. There was a large dense jungle at the outskirts of the village which was almost like a small forest having innumerable tall trees and bamboo plantations. In the village there were all kinds of flower plants which flourished on their own, there were different types of cacti, there were trees bearing all kinds of tropical fruits. I could never imagine that I would ever see any place which could be more beautiful than the village of my childhood.
But after I started living in Pennsylvania and started moving around, I could not believe my eyes for a while. The very first thought that came into my mind was “How a place can be so beautiful!” It not only had vast open fields having hundreds of acres of agricultural lands growing corn, wheat etc., it also had very large farmhouses with horses galloping within the fenced areas; endlessly long two way lanes running under deep blue sky with green fields on both sides where hardly any car could be seen except few horse driven Amish carts having yield signs at their backs, people inside the carts were always ready to smile the moment camera lenses were focused at them.
I was living in Camp Hill, which is a small town beside Susquehanna River; on the other side of the river is Harrisburg town. Harrisburg looks like a small European town with her picture perfect look.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is bestowed with everything that nature could provide.
I drove endless number of times on the bridge over the Juniata River just to view one more time how suddenly the majestic mountain rose as soon as the bridge ended, where the road turns at right angle and runs few miles in between the foothill and the river.
In our office, just few days before the Christmas, a large Christmas tree was brought. It looked spectacular after it was decorated with multicolored lights. It was kept near the reception where there was some open space. There, just beside the tree, I saw the cut out poster of a Santa Claus, the name I had never heard before. I got little curious.
After a little while, when everybody had went back to their respective offices and I was also about to leave, I saw a gentleman named Bill Shut, secretly referred to as ‘bullshit’, in the coffee room which was adjacent to the reception. He was busy filling his coffee mug. Bill was in my team which had about fifteen team members.
I walked near the coffee machine and asked him about the Santa Claus.
“You do not know who Santa Claus was” he asked.
“No I do not know”, I replied.
He started laughing, loud, intensity of his laughter was increasing almost in geometric progression; he was unable to control his laugh, almost ran out of breath, he bent forward holding his knees with his hands to support the upper part of his body which helped him to breath but was still unable to stop laughing. I was terribly embarrassed, looked around, I felt fortunate that there was nobody in the room to witness my embarrassment. I made up my mind that I had to know from him about Santa Claus so that in future I would never face the same embarrassment again.
I had to wait a while for his laughter to subside.
“Please tell me about Santa Claus”, I asked after he stopped laughing.
“Even I do not know who was Santa Claus but I thought everybody else knows” he replied.
Author: Mintu Ghoshal
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