Old pleasant memories hold a pride of place in the heart. They are like foot prints in the sands of time.

My old workplace, Tura Civil Hospital was nestled among the hills. Come November and the hospital was full of aromas of oranges. Patients footfall decreased probably in anticipation of the chimes of Christmas bells. I have always wondered at this. Probably gaiety in the heart drives sickness away. Have you noticed that happy people seldom fall sick?

In our free time, we sipped the orange segments with grounded chillies and salt combination. I used to almost double up on my chair in the chill of the mountain air. Once the chillies went in, imaginary vapours rushed out of my ears and I could sit quite upright for quite some time at a stretch.
The sounds waves of carols being practiced for Christmas spread all around, lenting a unique festivity to the air. I loved it.

Then there was the Party to look forward to. All the doctors and staff would join together at the right earnest for it.
There was a big frontyard in front of the AYUSH complex. Tall green hills on the opposite side gazed down at it.
Temporary fireplaces were made wirh big stones arranged on three sides of a circle. Long slices of thick dry wood went into it. When the flames leapt out; I made myself scarce. Cooking in firewood had never been my cup of tea.

By the way, no one had any expectation from me. My countenance and disposition was such, that it inspired no confidence in others, as far as my cooking and cutting skills were concerned. I was fine cutting a few tomatoes here and a few chillies there and did not mind it at all. Rest of the time I spent drinking tea and watching others work. ..

The flames leapt in a way, that I thought the huge utensils would go up in flames. They didnt. The flames calmed down and the logs turned red.
In came the male genre of the species. General and Orthopaedic surgeons and Ayurvedic physicians left their scalpels behind, tied a ‘gamocha’ over their clothes and middles, and took up the spatulas and ladles. Fish and chicken, mutton and paneer, vegetables and chillies went into the oil in different utensils, and the aromas were such that … they defy description.

The ladies for once, took a backseat and left all the gallantry to the gentlemen. I secretly thought they were loving it. In their own homes; their gallantry is on, the year around.
So why not spread your feet out on the grass and sing some la..and chew some betel nuts and leaves and speak to the dozen; while the Sun shone brightly above? So they did exactly that.

Once cooking was over, the prayers were said with utmost devotion. I almost felt that Jesus had come down to bless us all.

While the stomach growled louder in anticipation, the moment of the day arrived. The Sun had almost turned orange in the West by then.

The tastes still linger in my mouth. Firewood adds a distinct aroma to the food. If it is coupled by the company of friends, the gaity of talk, the chirping of birds and the bite of cool mountain air….it becomes an unbeatable experience. Isn”t it?

May Christ Bless Us All.

May his Divine light guide us all.

Merry Christmas in advance to all of you.

Please note:. I have lost the actual photographs. Images here sourced from Google.