A Christmas Present
A Christmas Present
Nothing could be seen, just fog and dewdrops of the breaking dawn still lingered on the window pane. It was six in the morning and Nisha was already up. She tossed her blanket to the floor and walked towards the window with a pair of crutches. The wheelchair was placed by the window as usual. After keeping the crutches against the wall, Nisha took her place on the good old wheelchair and gazed at the mesmerizing view outside. The mountains could be seen looking like vanilla ice-cream due to all the snow that had fallen on them. Glancing at the wall calendar, Nisha noticed the date. It was on the twenty-fifth of December. The garden at the back of the house had a Fir tree, that stood amidst the bushes of musk roses, decorated with twinkling lights and Christmas decor which had been bought from Rai Bahadur's shop on the mall road in Shimla, the previous evening. A snowman made by the local children, conscious of its crooked carrot nose positioned itself on the lane between the rows of houses.
On Christmas Eve, eight-year-old Nisha had hung a red stocking near the fireplace with a secret letter for Santa to read. Nisha's excitement for Christmas that year knew no bounds. She knew that it was the only time of the year when her wish could come true. However, that morning she was drained of all her living hope and excitement. Santa had not granted her, her only wish. Had she been a bad girl that year? Did Santa hold a grudge on her for not listening to Ammi more often? Thoughts like these filled her little mind within the blink of an eye.
Last year, Nisha had met with an accident while her elder brother, Nishant was driving her home from school. The car crash...an amputated leg...a brother who did not wake up. These images crawled up in her imagination at night when she tried to sleep. Every night for the past one year, Ammi's lullabies had lulled her to sleep. This year, all she ever wanted from Santa was to be able to walk again without the crutches and the wheelchair. She was so angry with Santa for not fulfilling her only wish. If only Santa could understand what it felt like to be so different from the rest of the kids at school, to see nothing but pity in everyone's eyes. Samarjeet, her only friend at school had moved to Dalhousie with his family on Michaelmas. Nisha was not only friendless but to make the situation worse, she was an object of fun for the other children at school. Her utter loneliness generated a feeling of self-pity within her, which was stronger than any physical discomfort she went through by having to live with an amputated leg.
It was seven now. Somehow time always flew quickly whenever she sat by the window. The road began to get crowded by the minute, making it impossible to distinguish between the faces that flocked the street. Strangers who wore masks of care and affection perambulated up and down the road. Suddenly, she heard the doorbell ring...again...and again."Ammi, there is someone at the door!" cried Nisha, but there was no answer to her call. Growing impatient and agitated by the repeated sound of the doorbell, she moved towards the door in her wheelchair and slowly climbed down the flight of stairs with her crutches. I do not know what made her so brave that day, for she had never climbed down the staircase all on her own. On opening the door, she found her doorstep empty. Thinking that whoever rung the bell might have left, Nisha was just about to close the door, when she heard a faint 'barking' sound. There at her doorstep, in a basket, she noticed a stray puppy. It was a foul day and just not the day to feel happy about getting an unwanted dog at the doorstep. She closed the door with a bang and reluctantly went inside. "What a wasted day!" she thought.
The clock struck one. Nisha wondered why nobody was home yet. Having nothing to do, she looked outside the window, her usual place in hours of boredom, and noticed the puppy playing on the snow. Thinking it might catch a cold, she stepped out of her room with her crutches, little by little, one step at a time. The moment she stepped out, the bundle of joy wagged its tail and sat patiently beside her leg as if its playtime was over. It was at this juncture that, Nisha realized that it was no ordinary pup, the pup had only three legs. Then, she noticed a note attached to the basket, which read, "Dear Nisha, sorry for not fulfilling your wish this year. Your Santa is a poor man, who has lost all his magical powers, and therefore, it was not possible for your old man to grant you your wish even if he desired to do so. He, however, leaves you a companion to add a bit of sparkle to your Christmas this year. Take good care of him. Best wishes ~ Santa."
Nisha bent down and picked up the puppy in her arms. "My Sparkle- that is what I will name you for adding all the glitters to my Christmas," announced Nisha with a smile. Two faces peered out from the corner of the house and smiled. " See, our daughter's million-dollar smile." rejoiced Mr. Srivastav. "I always knew you would never let our little dove down. Look how happy she is!" replied Mrs. Srivastav, and the couple hugged each other.
I remember the streets looking red that Christmas, as children wearing Santa costumes roamed about the streets. The Srivastav family turned off the lights, lit candles, and stayed indoors. It was the time family bonding with the youngest member of the family.