Chapter 43: Traditions of Modern Christmas
Ishaani opened her eyes, cuddling herself deeper into her blanket as she felt the chilly weather make her shiver. Slowly slipping out from the bed five minutes later, she looked at the time and realized that she'd overslept by a margin of two hours, the time being 9am. Quickly putting on her slippers, she made her way to the washroom, while Ranveer still slept on, snoring softly.
Changing herself into a warm pullover and a pair of jeans, she descended down the stairs after fifteen minutes and gasped. The house had been transformed whole. The house now had the appearance of a magical castle, icicles covered here and there on the ceilings, while green and red streamers ran throughout the several different panels of walls, baubles hanging from them beautifully. A large Christmas tree stood in the center where the sofas and armchairs would usually be, and the tree was sumptuously decorated with baubles and candy sticks, while several gifts stood below.
Ishaani could only look about the place in awe as she wondered what beauty the living room would hold in the nighttime.
She looked around the place and saw Martin hurriedly entering the house, rubbing his palms viciously against the other to get heat. He saw Ishaani staring around the living room in awe and spoke softly.
"You like it, Madame?"
"Martin, this is stunning!" Martin let the colour creep up in his face and smiled at Ishaani sweetly. The latter smiled before her brows furrowed up in confusion. "But when did you do this?"
"Once everyone went to bed. It’s our Christmas tradition. The other helpers and I quickly put about the decorations once everyone is off to bed and make sure to have it all done by 3 in the morning. It works as a surprise in the morning." Ishaani looked impressed and spoke again, awe evident in her voice.
"What about the manpower?"
"I divide the helpers in 5 groups of 8 people each. We manage to get the job done in unison." Ishaani chuckled and Martin grinned.
"You make this sound like the elves helping Santa Claus."
"Something like that, yes." Ishaani shook her head and Martin spoke happily. "Wait till you see all the other rooms as well." Ishaani looked bewildered before her eyes widened in surprise.
"Why yes, Madame! All the rooms are decorated. Except for your and Monsieur's room." Ishaani looked stunned before she whispered excitedly.
"Martin, this is amazing! I mean, really, this is just... wow!" Martin smiled at Ishaani enthusiasm.
"Madame, you are being most kind. Would like to see the igloo and the snowmen?" Ishaani mouth fell in a perfect 'O' as she questioned with childish excitement.
"We have an igloo and snowmen!? Show me!"
"Very well, Madame. Just put on an extra pair of gloves. It's really chilly outside." Ishaani quickly rushed up to her room and put on the extra pair of gloves, making sure that Ranveer's sleep was undisturbed. Descending quickly to reach Martin, who was waiting for her by the door side, she smiled at him and he led her out to the garden.
The garden was exactly the same with its sheet of blanket snow, except that now a huge igloo stood in the between and Ishaani couldn't help but admire the craft with which it was built. Around it stood three snowmen like sentinels, and Ishaani chuckled whole heartedly. Walking close to the snowmen, she realized that they were dressed identically, with an old maroon overcoat covering their bodies partially, while a mauve hat stood on their heads. A carrot sufficed for the nose, while buttons were arranged vertically over the body. Two twigs were used as hands and two gigantic buttons made for eyes. A smile was carved on all the three snowmen, so that they actually looked welcoming.
"Martin, this is indeed magical!"
"I'm glad that you liked it, Madame." Ishaani gave Martin and bear hug and exclaimed gleefully.
"Liked it? I love it! But you must tell me, Martin, who started this tradition?"
"Actually, it was I, Madame. You see, as a kid, I was always handed the responsibility of decorating the whole house single-handedly. My Roi's house was just as big as this one, so I'm accustomed to it. On my first Christmas with Monsieur, I decorated the house without asking Monsieur. I was most afraid that Monsieur would get angry, but it was the first time I ever saw him have a genuine smile on his face. It was then that I mentally decided that this tradition was to stay."
"Yes, Ranveer always loved things like these." Martin nodded and continued happily.
"Every year, I would be rewarded by Monsieur's heart-warming smile. There was nothing more important to me than that. This will be my fourth Christmas with Monsieur, and still his face remains the same shocked and mystified one each time he sees the decorations, as though he had indeed travelled into a magical land. Ofcourse, this year he has you. I've seen Monsieur smile like that nearly every day since you've returned back into his life and it is treat enough for me and Claudine. And given that this is your first Christmas with us, I thought it a befitting way to introduce you to our Christmas tradition." Ishaani looked touched and spoke softly, her voice filled with emotion.
"Martin, thank you."
"For what, Madame?"
"For being family." Martin smiled and the two of them made their way back to the house. Ranveer had just descended the stairs and yawned softly, looking about the place in fascination. Seeing Martin and Ishaani, Ranveer smiled.
"Gee Martin, you've outdone yourself this time." Martin gave Ranveer an embarrassed look. He was about to reply when Claudine entered the hall, a huge smile on her face.
"Mon cher, c'est magnifique!" Martin walked over to Claudine and hugged her, kissing her head. Ishaani noticed that Martin and Claudine were already dressed up for their shopping tour and Martin confirmed her assumption.
"You ready?" Claudine nodded her head and Martin turned to look at them. Ranveer smiled innocently and spoke.
"It's alright, Martin. Go. We'll manage to get started then." Ishaani nudged Ranveer and he coughed softly. "I mean, we'll be alright. Martha will be coming over for a late lunch." Claudine snorted while Martin shook his head.
"Monsieur, Claudine and I should be back from the shopping by 4 in the afternoon."
"Alright, but make sure you buy the kids some awesome clothes." Claudine and Martin smiled and left the house, while Ranveer and Ishaani heaved a sigh of relief. Ishaani turned to look at Ranveer and slapped his shoulder.
"What on Earth were you up to? You'd have spoilt the whole plan!" Ranveer rolled his eyes at her and waved his hand airily.
"I said that on purpose, so that they don't doubt us and give us extra time." Ishaani narrowed her eyes dangerously.
"Oh come now, let’s not debate and argue over this. It's Christmas Eve!" Ishaani understood the dropping of the matter and sighed. Ranveer smiled at her and pulled her into a hug. "So tell me, how did you like this?"
"It's brilliant! Why didn't you tell me about this before?"
"Well, I wanted it to be a surprise. It’s how we celebrate Christmas. 24th at home and then 25th in the igloo."
"Seriously? The igloo?"
"Yeah. It sounds insane, but it’s fun. What about you? Do you have any specific tradition?"
"Yeah. I spend every Christmas with the children of the orphanage. It feels good." Ranveer nodded at her understandingly and Ishaani looked hesitant. "I've been meaning to ask you this. Will you accompany me to the orphanage this year? For the full day?"
"I know that, sweetheart, but I can't. Those kids look forward to seeing me every year. I can't disappoint them. But I can't disappoint you either." Ishaani noticed Ranveer's crestfallen face, which he quickly camouflaged a moment later.
"It's alright. I don't like breaking my pact to Martin and Claudine either, but I don't see what can be done." Ishaani shook her head.
"No Ranveer. I know what this means to the three of you. It's alright. You don't need to break your promise. I guess, we won't be able to celebrate it together afterall." Ranveer gave Ishaani a lost look before speaking.
"Maybe. Maybe not." Ishaani looked at him and smiled sadly.
"Want to have lunch in the igloo?" Ranveer smiled at her and replied gently.
Martin and Claudine returned back in the afternoon and the house was taken into a storm with the shopping bags. Their dampened spirits improved by their lunch in the igloo, Ranveer and Ishaani now involved themselves completely over the clothes the Martin and Claudine had brought for the babies. Ishaani cooed over some of the outfits, while Ranveer smiled away stupidly.
Ranveer and Ishaani had both managed to convince Martin and Claudine to buy the other paraphernalia of the babies later on and spent the next three hours deciding and debating on what would be the gender of the babies. The conversation proved to be both fruitful and useless, as Ranveer and Claudine ended up betting over the gender of the babies, Ranveer saying that it was to be two girls, while Claudine stating that it would be two boys.
Tired of the debate, Ishaani and Martin moved ahead to decide the names of the babies, but that didn't prove too helpful either. Finally wrapping up everything and making their way to their respective rooms, the four of them came back for dinner, while the helpers served them a sumptuous meal. Martin made to get up to serve, but Ranveer pulled him down to the chair, his eyes a clear message to Martin.
After dinner, the four of them were enjoying desserts, sitting on the sofa set that was not placed to the corner of the living room, when Ishaani heard several children shouting and talking excitedly. Keeping her plate of strawberry shortcake aside, she quickly got up and walked towards the living room, before she was swarmed by several children at one time.
It took Ishaani a moment to come to terms with what was happening before she realized that they were the children from the orphanage. All the children came and hugged her in swarms, while Ishaani smiled at them lovingly. Looking towards the door, Ishaani saw Ranveer talking to the dean of the orphanage and smiled, tears brimming in her eyes.
She quickly kissed the children and directed them to the dining room, making them all sit down and having the helpers serve them dinner. Ishaani mentally thanked her stars that the dining room was spacious enough to accommodate 70 children in one go. She helped the helpers serve the food while Martin and Claudine helped her out quickly. She sighed contentedly seeing the children eat, before she saw Ranveer leaning against the door post giving her a loving look. She slowly walked up to him, her mind still in a daze.
"Ranveer, how did you-"
"I figured that we needed to build a new tradition. Besides, there's nothing better than having children home for Christmas. Lots of children. The dean was happy enough to give the children a new atmosphere for the day. She has also given me a list of things that needs to be taken care of but I figure that you'll manage to do that. After all, I did get the kids home on the part assurance and I would take care of them and partly because, well, you are my wife." Both of them smiled in common understanding before Ishaani remembered something.
"But what about-" Ranveer got the gist of what she was asking him and cut her politely.
"Oh don't worry. Luckily for us, the kids range from between 5-15 years old. So we can accommodate three per room. For the smaller ones, we can have four sleep together. We do have above twenty rooms ready and well decorated."
Ishaani walked up to him and pulled him away from the dining room. She looked at him teary-eyed before he hugged him tightly, Ranveer holding her closely to him. He could make out that her voice was shaking with emotion and could feel her body shivering slightly in giddy happiness.
"Always." Ishaani nodded her head on her shoulder and pulled herself apart so that their head touched each other’s. Ishaani kissed him on the bridge of his nose before she whispered back.
"So, can we fit in the igloo tradition tomorrow? Just the four of us?" Ranveer nodded his head happily, before he smiled.
"Oh yeah, we can fit that up certainly.”