Red Shawl

“Papa,” asked my five-year-old daughter from the bed as I ventured to switch off her light after a goodnight kiss, the last

Christmas eve, “Do you think there is some person called Santa who fulfills all our wishes?” “Well”, I said, “We all have our

Santas to fulfill our dreams. The only difference is that not all Santas are dressed in red,” I replied.

“I will ask only the red-capped, white-bearded Santa, like the one on this card," she said pointing her fingers to one bearing

father Santa with a sack full of gifts, “They look more real and loving”, she said. “Of course, kid,” I replied, “You can ask the red-

capped Santa uncle for your gift, I am sure he will fulfill it.”

“Well dad,” she replied yawning, “I have already asked for my gift from him,” she said.” And what is that my little one has asked

for?" I enquired. “Oh nothing much, just a soft red flowered shawl, nice and fluffy.” “But just last week your mother brought a

nice red cashmere shawl, the one you like so much,” I answered, “I am sure you have asked for some other colour, is it bright

blue?” I asked. “No Papa,” she replied, “I want one exactly like the one mom gave me,” so saying she pulled the quilt over her


I looked at the window, but it was closed. Yes it was cold, just like the weatherman had forecast, lot of chilly breeze and fall in

night temperature. Suddenly, her face emerged from the quilt cover, “Papa, do you think it is colder outside than it is inside?”

she asked.

“Oh yes,” I replied, “the inside temperature is warmer than the outside and then it can be controlled.”  “Do you think Rani's

children would be crying from cold? She asked, with a worried tone. “Rani?” I asked puzzled, “Who is Rani?” “Oh the doggy that

has given pups under the tree on the other side of the road,” she replied. “Well I am sure they would. God gives the living the

ability to fight and survive,” I said switching off her light and softly closing the door.

Next day was Christmas and I had all plans of catching up with the lost sleep a busy schedule had caused. But a worried and

shocked voice of my daughter woke me up rather early the next morning. “Papa the shawl has been stolen”, she exclaimed amid

sobs. Shawl? which shawl?” I asked.

“Oh! Papa I had covered Rani's pups with my red shawl yesterday evening, it was so cold but someone has stolen it. Oh! They are

shivering” she said. “You know child your mother is going to be pretty wild hearing this,” I said. “That is why I asked Santa to give

me a red coloured shawl as a present, daddy,” said a frustrated voice.

The morning mist still loomed thick. On the bench near the road-side tree I could spot something red. I took my daughter's

fingers and walked towards it. On the bench lay a white-haired man, whose wrinkled face and white eyebrows peeped from

underneath my daughter's shawl.

His eyes were closed. Only his breath revealed that it was a comfortable slumber. “Hey Vidushi,” I said turning to her, “you know

what this man had wished? He had wished for a warm covering and see his Santa has fulfilled his desire, I said with a smile.

“Yes Papa,” replied my daughter “but Rani will never be able to take it back from him,”

she said in a tone that reflected a child's bafflement at the way Santas give and take gifts!

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