Thursday, 7 January 2010

Jan 6 – The Gift of the Magi




I have 3 wall calendars in my home this year for 2010 – a calmanac from Goa; the annual calendar from Don Bosco’s shrine, Matunga Bombay, sent to all patrons; and a 2 month-at-a-glance calendar from the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Goldakhana, New Delhi.
Of these 3 only one mentions the feast of the three kings on Jan 6.

The three kings feast at Reis Magos and Cansaulim is known all over Goa and elsewhere too. On this day three devotees dressed as the three kings make their way up the Cansaulim hill on horseback(?). The feast Mass is said in the morning and by early evening after the stalls are visited dark, descends and the place becomes eerily quiet. Some say the place is haunted after dark.

The nearest I came to the action in Goa yesterday was listening to my little nephew Nigel in Goa telling me in his own words what the feast of the three kings was all about. He was waiting, along with the family at O Coqueiro, Porvorim for his prawn stuffed-papads but his take on Herod and his goons was unerring.

‘Herod told the three kings to tell him where baby Jesus was so he could also go and see him. But he wanted to kill baby Jesus. When the three kings saw baby Jesus they took gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. But when they left each of them saw a different star and reached home. No one sent to see Herod. Herod got angry and killed all the newborn babies, but he could not kill baby Jesus.’

Sr Alvina who taught me in Mount Carmel school, Gandhidham, Kutch in Gujarat shares her birthday with the feast of the Magi. When I called Kutch, she asked if I knew about the fourth wise person who was a woman. She referred me to the day’s sacred space in the Times of India. As I procured it today in office from the dustbin of history I read about La Befana, from Italian folklore who sets out looking for baby Jesus each Epiphany (6 Jan).

The legend goes that the three wise men stopped by at her place on their journey and she gave them food and shelter for the night. In recognition of her service they ask her to join them on their search. She declines saying there is too much housework to do. Only later she realizes she is making a mistake. She sets out to find them, but can’t. She has been looking for them ever since.

For me, Jan 6 was a special day. A college friend of mine and mentor, now with the Azim Premji Foundation , stepped in from Bangalore enroute to Dehradun by train at midnight – with a team of 5. I placed my modest home at their disposal.

With a gallant boss okaying my request to leave a little early to take care of house guests I reached in haste to chaperon them home. What emerged was an unforgettable evening ensconced on mats and dhurries – amidst backpacks and laptops -- with my new found friends marshalling the kitchen to emerge with steaming cups of tea. Shrewsbury biscuits from Pune were passed around. A singing session followed, and in the stillness, ‘Silent Night.’ They raved over the sight of the Qutb minar in moonlight – which they took in, in the precious moments they were here.

Yes, I had some very special guests on the feast of the Magi. As I played ‘We three kings of Orient are’ on my guitar I felt that night I was blessed by the beauty of the moment.

I slept on the dhurrie and listened to the faint noises outside. I played my ‘Sounds of Isha/ White Mountain’ CD produced in the Velliangiri foothills, Coimbatore and let the meditation wash over me. Then was time for the Bangalore rock band Thermal and a Quarter with their album ‘Plan B’. Dismissing the weariness I tidied my writing table and consigned a decrepit VCD-cum-cassette-cum-radio-cum games player to the storeroom under the staircase for disposal.

This morning the maid spruced up the corner I had worked on, almost through the night. I felt energized and alive with the visit of my traveller-friends. Their train had left by now, but the journey was mine as well now.

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Times of India article by Marguerite Theophil

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