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Christmas cheer beats winter chill, bank plays Santa



TURA: Winter has just set in and it’s the perfect time for cherries, cheers, cakes and reunions next to bonfires to beat the chill as the biggest celebration in Garo Hills-Christmas draws near.

It is an ideal setting to welcome the festival of peace and sharing, a festival which reposes its faith in humanity.

And there is no better place, the locals believe, than Garo Hills for celebration of the birth of Lord Jesus Christ.

Despite rush hour traffic snarls which are increasing by the day, despite shoddy connectivity which is a hindrance to the grand narrative of digitalization, there is still an infectious air of hope, warmth and cheers which fills the crowd thronging the shops for last minute Christmas shopping.

“It is only during this time of the year that the children are excited as Christmas draws near. So we try and do our bit by giving them a new set of clothes and toys to see the happiness and joy in their faces,” said a young mother out doing shopping with her three children inside the sprawling Tura Super Market which is witnessing a mad rush of customers out to get the best bargains.

“The whole year we barely make it to clear our rent and other expenses due to lack of shoppers. Even during Durga Puja celebrations there is hardly much sale. But when Christmas comes round our sales pick up and there have been times when our entire stock had been cleared,” says local trader Saha.

The super market is chock-a-block with shoppers not just from Tura town but also from the different villages and towns of Garo Hills who are coming in their droves on public transport as well as private.

Local traders are also delighted with the brisk business taking place as planters come from as far as Williamnagar and Chokpot to sell their produce to eager customers in Tura ahead of the festival.

But not everything is picture perfect on the eve of the celebrations.

Hundreds of families whose earning members are employees in the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council are witnessing a Christmas devoid of festivity, this year too.

The council employees who were unpaid for fifteen long months were given only three months of their dues, a few weeks back.

“We have credits due thousands of rupees in shops and yet we only received three months of our dues. All that money has gone into repayment and clearing children’s education fees. There is nothing left for celebrating Christmas,” a distressed council employee narrated her family’s tale of woes. She is not alone.

Some of the council employees have been able to procure small bank loans in the form of ‘Festival Loan’ to provide something for their families, but that would require to be repaid with interest within a year itself.

“I couldn’t bring myself to see my children sad when there is joy and laughter all around. So I obtained a small loan to buy each of them something. I know I will have to work harder to clear the loan but I am prepared to do so for the happiness of my family,” revealed another GHADC employee.

While careless governments seem to be the order of the day, yet stories of hope and goodness defying odds still abound.

The Meghalaya Co-operative Apex Bank in Tura played Santa Claus to a widow with five children complimenting her courage and conveying the message of love and sharing which is the essence of Christmas.

The widow Marthina S Marak of Nikrang Ading locality was gifted with ten thousand rupees and clothes by the bank to help her family on the occasion of Christmas.

Truely, the spirit of Christmas is very much alive spreading the feeling of joie de vivre!

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