Come January in North India and you will find the ubiquitous morning fog overthrowing every schedule of yours. The trains will run late by hours, the road traffic will chug at a snail pace, there would even be an unfortunate pile up of vehicles at one or another expressway somewhere, the flights will not take off, Air Traffic Control will be paralyzed, the airports would resemble a bus station, with few passengers quarreling with airline staff for not being informed in advance and so on and so forth. There would be few fire places-alav lit on some corners of the road and dogs and cows along with men would be besides them trying to shake off the effect of a chilly foggy winter. Many will be cursing the fog and may also be pitying themselves by comparisons with a Mumbaikar or a South Indian, who have never known in their parts of India, what actually the fog is?
But in this melee of things and amidst the gloomy clouds of fog, there are few who would be seeing silver-lines in it. They would be waiting for fog to intensify a little more, so that the stage is set for landing of a different type of Santa Claus. Before their Santa Claus actually pops in, they would be going to schools in maximum clothes and sweaters, in monkey caps and all. They would be knowing that their misery of huddling with scores of others on rickshaws and vans would be noticed soon by their Santa Claus. They also know that their Santa is married too and more often than not, their Santa would be fully aware of their plight through his or even her (this Santa can be a female too, an entire break from tradition!) own blood. As the winter progresses, these kids would start checking in the news channel in the evening and would nor mind even interrupting their ‘Doremon Channels’ to get the keenly awaited news. In the mornings of maximum chill, they would wait for the light thud sound generated by the throw of newspaper by the hawker and would scurry up downstairs to pick up the newspaper and before handing over that to their father or mother. They would scrutinize every bold letter on front page to know the impending announcement of their Santa. They would be disappointed in the first few days, but with every passing day, they would know that their Santa is more likely to come their rescue.
While the Santa Claus of Xmas in December in his long white beard and in red woolly dress distributes kids’ favorite chocolates and other ‘worldly’ gifts, this Santa Claus of January is the true friend of the school going kids. He is the kind and gentle one and responds to kids whenever they call him in distress in fog. He is the ‘Shaktimaan’. He can overpower the wily school principals. He can ask every single school in his district to shut down and enforce compliance too from recalcitrant by sending in a posse of Khaki. He can thus bring smiles on the faces of children in seconds. His often late evening announcements in foggy January on school closures are wired and circulated at the speed of the electricity and printed in bold letters on the front page and read aloud as the first thing from the news papers by the lucky and proud announcer with a feel of a satisfaction, as if he is breaking news of visit of Obama. He can do it all. Yes, he is the District Magistrate or DM or more aptly, the ‘DM Uncle’.
And when DM Uncle announces chhutti (leaves) finally, particularly for the younger ones, he means it. There would be a swarm of thank you messages, circulated through news papers and sometimes directly to ‘DM Uncle’ by the journalist parents themselves. The parents would heave a sigh of relief initially. The mothers would be smiling even more, as now they would be spared of preparing the breakfast of those unearthly hours. They would also be spared from doing the most difficult task of the morning-waking up a child sleeping cozily in the warmth of a quilt. Who in this world would enjoy this satanic task to disturb the sleep of these little angels on those foggy chilly mornings.
However, these foggy mornings can be deceptive sometimes too. Often, the announcement of a week school break, would be followed up by the bright sunny morning, as if the Sun God was deliberating hiding himself to tease all, very next day. Now, the kids would be nervous and parents would be confused. There would be possibilities of schools reopening, but it would take some time and before a decision could be possibly finalized, there would be another spate of chilly and foggy mornings. The weathermen would be re-consulted and news papers and 24*7 news channel would not fail to remind the ‘DM Uncle’ of the change in the scenario. The weather Gods and the satellites imagery would be seen again. But all that can be estimates only. The kids would be smiling mostly through this phase and would be enjoying the ample play time. With sudden winter-break they would have not got their further quota of homework too!
This would continue mostly till the third week of January. The parents would by now would have got enough of their kids’ naughtiness. Post Makar-Sankranti, the Sun God would also be shining brighter. The Santa Claus would now take a stock again and after promising to come back in this role next year too, around the same time, would announce the reopening of the school. The things would go back to normal, slowly but surely.
Thanks Santa Claus@ DM Uncle. Do come next year too……