A. The Secret Santa

“Ho! Ho! Ho!”

The Santa poser guffawed loudly as he handed over his gift to the receiver of the day. Today’s receiver was Akansha, and as the Santa handed over a rather tiny package to her, she was immediately surrounded by at least 5–6 people. She quickly began to open the gift. Before Akansha herself could react, her close friend, Simran squealed excitedly and declared, “Oh wow! That is so thoughtful. Surely your Secret Santa has a crush on you to know you so well!”

It was a handmade coupons booklet of all leading cosmetic brands, right from L’Oreal to Lakme. One could easily make out how happy Akansha was on receiving such a personalized gift. Right away, speculation began on who the Secret Santa could be. Simran once again was the loudest as she firmly decided, “It has to be Rohit! He has been quite the lover boy to Akansha. He got her that customized cake on her birthday too, remember?” All the girls standing around Akansha’s desk nodded at this and, with giggly smiles, looked coyly at Rohit, who visibly blushed and ignored this jibe.

Within a few minutes, the excitement of the gift of the day settled and everyone returned to their desks. As a prelude to Christmas, the entire week leading up to the festival had been declared as a Secret Santa celebration.

Yesterday, all the employees from the team of 50 of Zen Technologies Mumbai had been anointed as a Secret Santa to one employee. Each person was to send over a gift anonymously to his receiver on any one day of the following week starting from today. The office had been abuzz with discussions and gossips ever since this activity had been declared. The most interesting part of the game was that if someone revealed who their receiver was, both the Santa and the receiver would be disqualified from the game.

This had added much more suspense, thrill, and of course conjecture about who received gifts from whom throughout the entire activity. During lunch that day, Simran once again cornered Rohit and asked him directly, “So, how did you know Akansha’s favorite brands? That was quite the romantic gesture, I must say! She can’t stop gushing over her gift.” Rohit looked uncomfortable as he said, “Listen, Simran. It wasn’t me, okay? And it’s not Akansha I like, it’s you. That cake you spoke about was only because you had mentioned her favourite TV show during lunch on the day before her birthday. It was nothing over the top as you’re making it out to be.”

Simran was taken aback and could only respond with, “No, that can’t be. She really thinks you like her, and now you liking me instead would only make things complicated. Don’t tell her please!” She walked away, leaving a surprised and heartbroken Rohit wondering about complicated female feelings and friendships. From that day on though, an awkwardness crept in between Simran and Akansha where the former avoided getting into long conversations and the latter didn’t know who to turn to about her growing feelings for Rohit.

The following day, the Santa poser walked in enthusiastically again, and handed over the gift package in his hand to Swapnil. Unlike yesterday, there was no smiling and giggling, but 2–3 people from the surrounding work desks did stand up to see what the gift was. It was a chic wallet from Montblanc, with a note attached saying, “Because a stylish man deserves a stylish wallet.” The men surrounding Swapnil thumped him on the back and went back to their desks. Swapnil however kept admiring the wallet for a few minutes, trying to guess who the sender could be.

Then he suddenly recalled a conversation he had had with Priti some weeks back. He looked over at her and, not surprisingly, found her looking at him, giving him a thumbs up! Little had he known that his, “I buy my leather products only from Montblanc. This is the only thing I’m unable to compromise on when it comes to brand loyalty,” would lead to the beginning of a relationship, as he too smiled and gave Priti a thumbs-up in return.

It was the fifth day of Secret Santa. By now, almost everyone had received their gifts. While some had guessed their Santa right, there were others who had gone horribly wrong in the guessing game. Yesterday, Amit had received an all-expenses-paid dinner for two at Taj Hotel. Thinking the gift had been from Shruti, Amit asked her to be his date on the dinner. But Shruti not only confessed she hadn’t been the sender but even declined the date. This had led to a Karan Johar movie type scene when Amit’s best friend, Siddharth intervened in their conversation and declared his disappointment over the cupid kind of plans he had made for getting the two of them together. Thankfully, the three found this to be hilarious rather than embarrassing when Sidharth said, “There goes my directorial dream.” Not only the three of them, but the entire office had been cackling over this failed attempt of Sidharth’s.

However, today, the Santa poser was more enthusiastic than usual as he handed a gift to Gayatri. The Santa didn’t leave either as Gayatri opened the package to find a jewellery box with a ring and a card that said, “Answer wisely.”

Gayatri’s blush would’ve been visible from a mile away too! Without a minute’s hesitation she walked over to Amit’s desk and said, “My answer is yes.” Totally bowled over and surprised at this, Amit took a few seconds to compose himself and said, “May I see the gift please?” A nervous Gayatri handed over the ring and card to Amit, who, after reading the card, said, “Umm, Gayatri. This isn’t for you, I think. Please check the card. It says ‘Gayathri’ and not ‘Gayatri’.”

Camouflaging her embarrassment, Gayatri mumbled an apology and walked over to the Santa poser. As she explained the mix-up, Amit couldn’t help looking over at Siddharth, who was shaking with laughter. As the gift was given to the right receiver, Siddharth walked over to Gayatri and asked, “Would you like to go to Taj with that idiot Amit?”
Gayatri chuckled as she replied, “You never give up being the matchmaker, do you?”

Amidst the confusion, Amit was finally relieved about finding a date for his dream dinner, even though it was not via the ideal circumstances!

Note: This story was originally published on Litgleam

B. Christmas Micro Tales

  1. Santa Exists

2. Under The Tree

C. A Fairy Tale Christmas (short story excerpt)

“And that’s how the elves helped the shoemaker, and the shoemaker too returned them with a favour to show his gratitude …”

Saying so, Mrs. Adams closed the book from which she had been reading out.

When she kissed Kris on the forehead and said, “Good night”, the question she had been expecting came up. “

Mom, but why did the elves not come back after that?”, asked Kris with a curiosity she had come to adore.

“Because the shoemaker did not need their help anymore. Now got to sleep. Tomorrow is the day you have been excited about from the past three weeks. And don’t forget, if you don’t sleep, Santa won’t be able to drop off his special gifts.”

Kris nodded seriously and replied, “Okay, mom. Good night”

His mom walked out of the room and switched off the lights, closing the door behind her. Kris stared at the ceiling, going over the wonderful Christmas stories his mom had read out to him over the past few weeks.

He slept with a smile on his face, excited for the coming day.

(Note: This is a story excerpt from one of the short stories titled A Fairy Tale Christmas from the book The Art of Being Grateful and Other Stories which is a collection of 8 short stories written by Manali Desai. You can read the full story in the book which is available on Amazon and Ukiyoto)

Poet, Author, Editor, Blogger, Freelance Writer & Book Reviewer @ arusticmind.com/

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