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23 December 2006

'Twas the night before Christmas . . .

FOUR BIG things happened in the last four weeks:

1. My niece Angelica visited me in Mumbai. On these festive days in India (Diwali and now Christmas), being with a family member allows me to grasp the spirit of kinship that the Indians are celebrating with the season.

Angelica, the oldest of my nephews and nieces, stayed for only a day. After shopping for silk scarves at Bandra, a mainly-Christian suburb with funky streetside fashion markets, we spent the rest of the afternoon getting pampered at Abydoss, a wellness center that looks like a house. It was quite pricey, but the relaxation treatment diverted me from thinking of the major disappearance of cash in my wallet.

2. I moved to a new flat. The landlord of the old flat needed to reclaim it, so I had to pack up and move in 24 hours. Fortunately, there was little to pack up, so the move went smoothly.

But not peacefully. Moving houses, it appears, is also a time for noisome celebration in India. From beginning to end, the movers—ten brawny men who could cut rope with their fists—spoke incessantly with each other in Hindi, often at the same time. Their team leader took turns screaming at them and screaming at some poor chap at the cell phone. He was, naturally, being ignored by his team, which made him scream louder.

Two weeks later, my boxes are still unpacked. You know how it is to see a pile of stuff you know you need to adrress and then decide to delay it a little bit because something more pleasant always comes in between. It is called the art of procrastination, and unpacking has got to be listed as one of the world's most procrastinated things.

3. We set up Christmas displays in the stores. It was a colorful affair, with three-dimensional Santas, reindeer, snow, trees, and elves filling the windows, entrances,and staircases. It was also a gigantic test of crisis management and perseverance for me, as I had to deal with a contractor whose sense of timing went berserk and messed up deadlines. To begin with, his snowmen (made of plaster of Paris) kept flaking off, so they looked like they were melting. At one point, I wanted to turn him into a reindeer and make him fly away. Forever.

4. We opened a new store in the northern city of Lucknow. It is the third store that I helped set up during my first year in India. There were lots of fun bonding with my northern team . . . and lots of dust settling in the mugs that we displayed at the entrance. One day, I will write a screenplay about dust in mugs and how they strengthen human bonding. Cesar Buendia will direct it.

Oh, what fun it is to ride and sing a slaying song! Uh, I mean sleighing.

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