Kochi: Christmas folklore has it that Santa Claus comes riding a reindeer sleigh from the Arctic with his signature shouts of 'ho ho ho', all the while showering gifts on children.
But at least for one family unit of the Thevakkal parish of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Ernakulam this year, Santa Claus came from Bengal, riding a train.
Earlier this week, the members of the executive committee of the St. Joseph family unit at Kangarappady near Kakkanad, Ernakulam, were a worried lot as the carol visit to 33 houses under its area neared. Their problem was that there was no one to become Santa Claus. There are very few youngsters in the member families of the unit. Many of them are outside Kerala, and even abroad, as part of their jobs or for studies. Among those who were available, none were willing to become Santa.
Even as the clock ticked towards 6.30 pm on Wednesday, when the carol visits were set to begin, no one could be found. Then, the treasurer of the committee, Tinson Chakkalakal, who is a civil contractor, hit upon an idea. Why not ask one of his employees hailing from West Bengal to become Santa? After all, migrant workers have been taking up most of the jobs that Malayalis have stopped doing or are unwilling to do.
He broached the subject with his employees and one of them, Souvik Mallick (19), who hails from Chandipur in Purbh Burdwan district of West Bengal, expressed his willingness.
Initially, some of the committee members expressed their reservations about the plan. Would he realize the importance of the task and act the part?
However, with no other option, the committee decided to cast Souvik in the role anyway.
Souvik, the amiable youngster, did not know much about what was expected of him, though he had seen Santa Clauses in his native place which has a smattering of Christians and a church.
Tinson took up the responsibility of briefing Souvik about the yuletide custom and taught him how to shake a leg the Santa way and swivel the cane.
Soon, the carol team was on its way, singing and shouting “happy Christmas”.
The families received the carol team, consisting of many women, children and men, the traditional way even as Santa entertained all with his dance and gave away toffees and gifts. Souvik did his part so well that he won everyone’s heart none of the families suspected anything unusual.
Souvik came to Kerala just over a year ago and does not know Malayalam. It was his elder brother, Sisir Mallick, working with Tinson for the past six years, who brought Souvik to Kerala. The youngster works as a helper in electrical and plumbing jobs at the work sites.
Asked how he felt playing Santa Claus, Souvik said that he enjoyed it and would do it again if asked.
The family of Souvik, son of Golak Mallick and Dolan Mallick of Chandipur, has four acres of land. However, not much income is earned from the land on which vegetables are cultivated. Souvik said that what drew his elder brother and him to Kerala was the fact that while the daily wage for a person was a paltry Rs. 300 back home, it is around Rs. 1,000 in Kerala.
(The writer is a Kochi-based freelance journalist)