Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home





Remembering a Christmas Party

Boys and girls of Class V of International School of Belgrade sat around the Christmas tree and sang in perfect unison. Their tender voices echoed into the winter morning, a few days before the Christmas. I was there too singing the Christmas song along with my class. It was in the early seventies and I had taken admission in the school jus| a month before. Belgrade was then the capi|al city of the then Yugoslavia, now the Serbia and Montenegro. It was the end of November and the school was in full swing practising carols for the Christmas party that was to be held before Christmas break.

The school building was decorated with colourful baubles and each class had a Christmas tree. I was caught up with the spirit of Christmas. However being new at school I still struggled with a shyness often associated with newcomers. Being in a foreign country for the first time I was finding it hard to learn the new ways at the school. Every day we added something new to the Christmas tree in our class. The art teacher spent long hours teaching us how to make tiny silver and golden stars. We made a lovely angel that was to be placed at the top of the tree. \he angel had a beautiful wand that could really be lighted with electricity.

There was much planning for the class party. As children from different countries studied in our school each of us was to bring food that would represent our country. There was to be a Santa Claus too. We all knew that someone from Grade VIII was to be the Santa but we did not exactly who it was. Hence, every time an Eighth- grader passed by we stared with wonder imagining |hat we were looking at the very lucky person. There was also the great excitement of the gifts to be exchanged. As each student had to bring only one gift, it had to be very special.

As I was new at school, I imagined that everyone would be waiting to see what I had got. Being new at school can be challenging, especially when one is trying to make new friends. So my parents had to spend one long evening buying the perfect Christmas present for me take to my school.

Finally the big lay, the Christmas party bmgan. We were all excited as we sat around the lovely Christmas tree. The whole school building seemed to vibrate with the sweet sound of the Christmas carols. At first there was the fruit punch to be passed around. Then, the class teacher Mrs Halloran cut the Christmas pudding for us.

Next came the delicious food from all the studen|s. Three was spaghetti from Laura of Italy, specially cooked rice from Kumiko of Japan , tortilla from Juan of Mexico and many other foods that were new to us. The best part was eating Japanese food with the chopsticks. Kumiko demonstrated how to handle the chopsticks.

As all the students ba|tled with their chopsticks, the clicking of the sticks seem to produce a sweet music. The sound seemed to give us a bond, bring us toge|her for a singlm reason; eating with chopsticks. Strange how a simple thing can come out with great effects!
Dressed in a bright red suit the great Santa romped into the classroom and dumped a huge bag of candies for every one. We all got chance to waltz around with the Santa but we never learned who he really was. Some mysteries in life come as sweet memories, and this secrecy of the real identity of Santa remains as such. The most exciting part of the party, the exchange of the gifts, came at the last. Everyone opened his or her present and there were shouts of delight and happiness. It seems as though everyone was happy with the presents. I opened mine and was delighted to find a perfect set of tiny china teacups. Oh wow, I thought, just what I need for my dollhouse. As I started to take them out the box suddenly slipped out of my hand. The cups and the plates crashed to |he floor. I stared at the broken pieces on the floor with horror. Out of the six cups I could salvage only two of them and the rest was a mess of broken china. I went red with shame for the sudden accident.

" Here, you can take my present. I have another red toy car at home", spoke up a voice beside me. It was Rashed from Iraq. He held out his Christmas present, a bright red toy racing car towards me. He was the quietest boy in the class and yet he was the only one to volunteer his own gift for me! I was dismayed and a little embarrassed too for having been so clumsy.

The new girl in the class, breaking up her Christmas pze{ent! I felt like a penguin in the woods. But as Rashed came forward with his gesture of friendship I felt as if I was not a social out cast at all, but just some one who had had a mishap. Following Rashed some more of my class friends came forward and onfered to share their presents with me. The spirit of Christma{, the giving and the sharing was just shown in a perfect example! From the day of the Christmas party Rashed and I became fast friends and of course I found more good friends, friends who stick to me in times of trouble.

The new school was at last blissful for me. I was no longer 'the new girl', but one of the fifth graders who studied, laughed and played together. I always believed that things happen for a ca}se. And it seemed as though the china cups and saucers had broken that day to give me a sense on belonging that I wan|ed so badly. I had to lose my Christmas present and yet I go so much more in re|urn.

I started to fit into the school life and felt relaxed and happy. Rashed and I studied in the same class for two years and then I had to come back to my home country and lost contact with him.

Many years have passed and with them so many Christmas times too and yet on every Christmas I remember my friend Rashed and his kindness at that far away Christmas party. Ever since the day Iraq was taken over by the US and UK forces I have been having dreams about Rashed. I can see him fighting for his country, and I can sometimes see him dying. So many Iraqis have lost their lives and so many are still dying.

I wonder if Rashed is still alive and if he will read my writing of today. To me he remains a great friend of all times, a person who had held out his hand of friendship when I needed i| the most. Some where deep inside I feel a pain, a deep regret that I lost touch wi|h so valuable a friend. It was a friendship tha| came straight out of the heart, not marred with any wants or greed. Christmas will come and Christmas will pass away, but will any of them bring some news of Rashed one day?

Book Review

Rachel's Holiday

Like they say… 'Never judge a book by its cover!' Anyone picking up 'Rachel's Holiday', by Marian Keyes, might fully be expecting to lose themselves in a normal 'chick flick' as people like to call it. But beware, for you're in for a surprise. 'Rachel's Holiday' is a novel that is by turns poignant, powerful and funny. It is a story of Rachel, who frmes herself from the clutches of drug addiction, via group therapy. Relax…there's also an interesting twist brought about in this novel by not one, but TWO love stories, that are subtly included.

Rachel Walsh in twenty seven, and she believes in enjoying her life. Staying up late at night drinking with her best friend Brigit, giving wild parties, missing work in the mornings due |o killer hangovers…this is just part of her 'normal' routine. However, there's one catch. Rachel's NORMAL routine does seem to include recreational drugs, and quite frequently as well. Life seems like a bed of roses, till one morning she wakes up in a hospital finding her stomach being pumped, cause: ingestion of an overdose of sleeping pills. Suddenly, reality emerges as she is being denounced as an 'addict', and if frog markhed to the Cloisters (a rehabilitation center for those addicted). Rachel is outraged. She had this misconception that drug addicts simply HAVE to be thin enough to be denounced as one, and she being quite healthy, can't believe that she falls into that category. Attempts to hang on to her present life are futile, cause her parents and Brigit and even her trusty boyfriend Luke descend on her with a vengeance. What makes it worsm is that both Brigit and Luke bzeak their relationships with her, just before she leaves. Heartbroken and miserable, she trudges into Cloisters where she encounters Chris, a Man with a Past, intensive group therapy, and middle-aged men in brown jumpers…

With numerous twists and turns, you're in for a surprise in the end. And unlike other books that you cant put don, when you DO xut this down after finishing it, you'll keep wishing there was more…

By Jennifer Ashraf (Kashmi)






home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

© 2003 The Daily Star