I woke up at 7:30 a.m. and got ready to head out for my 10 a.m. dance rehearsal with the other exchange students. I was two hours south of my city, in the larger city of Surat. Though I was wearing my usual combination of jeans and a kurta (a traditional collarless long-sleeve top that extends to the knees), the 80-degree heat found me with beads of sweat dotting my forehead by the afternoon.
How was this day different from any other? Well, I seem to remember having heard some people offering unusual greetings to one another, and there were these very strange looking Santa masks being sold on the side of the thoroughfare leading into the city. Wait ... that’s it! It was Christmas Day!
I won’t detail how unlike an upstate New York Christmas it was for me in India. It was so different that I often found myself stopping and really letting the notion wash over me, “Yes, Sam, today is Christmas.” I would try to think about what I usually did on this day in years past, but the memories were scattered into the shadows by the horns and the heat.
Oddly enough, I was still able to experience a little ice and snow. In one of the behemoth malls of Surat, there is “The Snow Park.” There, on the fourth floor, a room is chilled to -5 degrees Celsius (about 23 degrees Fahrenheit) filled with “snow” (more like crushed ice bits), and decorated with ice sculptures, plastic igloos and snowmen. Looking out the window, while putting on a coat and boots before entering, I could see a group of young men playing cricket on a faraway field of grass, made yellow by the sun.
Inside, Bollywood music was playing and a manufactured wind was howling through, freezing my ears as quickly as it reminded me of home. It was incredibly fun, especially when the simulated blizzard struck, complete with strobe lights and sound effects. When I stepped out, though, I was happy to enter back into the natural warmth I had temporarily avoided.