aughty or Nice? This is the question that keeps bothering millions of children every year on Christmas Eve. After all it’s the big fat old man in the trademark red dress that is rumoured to give away presents jumping through the chimneys (don’t worry he has other means to deliver those presents to houses that do not have a chimney). More than the presents the children care about a list that Santa prepares categorizing every child in Naughty or Nice based on his/her conduct the whole year. This keeps the children on their toes as they try to be at their best lest they land in the Naughty list and be denied of the much cherished presents.
This story is about a fifteen year old lad named John who happens to be in awe with the concept of Santa. As any normal child he grew up listening to stories of Santa Claus and always wanted to meet him. But presumably he always landed up in the Naughty list and never got any presents. He always used to wonder why he always landed up in that dreaded list. He could not fathom any reason though as he had tried to display good conduct every year. Some of his friends had told him that Santa was only in stories and it was just to make children behave in a good manner. Ultimately the wealthy parents of these kids would get them presents in the guise of Santa every Christmas eve. He did not believe them but could not help wondering why some of the other kids who were always up to some tricks always got everything that they wanted and their pockets were filled with chocolates every Christmas. This made him really sad and he always asked his mother why he was denied of the presents. First it was the demise of his father when he was only ten and then the financial problems in the family because of which they were forced to move out of their large house to a much smaller one. The only place he liked to be was at school where he could listen to other kids who always seemed to have a story of an encounter with Santa. He wrote to Santa twice at the address that he had taken from his friends but both the times the letter was returned back citing invalid address. He must have done something horribly wrong that Santa was ignoring him.
You can say that the kid was terribly unfortunate because one morning when he was returning from school he found out that his mother had been taken to the hospital as she had suffered a heart attack. In a matter of days he was involved in the cremation of his mother’s body. It was something that cannot be penned down and the loss of his mother was unbearable for him. He resolved to ask Santa why he was being punished so harshly whenever he meets him.
The following year he was shifted to the orphanage as his relatives had disagreed to keep him. They had argued that he brought ill luck in the family. Why would someone say that? How can a kid bring ill luck? This was completely beyond him. The time he spent at the orphanage was an eventful one because all the children were either shunned by their guardians or else had lost their parents. This brought him solace to be in familiar company. It was here that he made some great friends. They devised different theories why Santa had punished them. Someone would say it was because of the deeds they did in their past life. If this were true then Santa must be really strict and pleasing him would be really difficult. Some of the children had just given up and went back to being naughty; others said they never really believed in Santa. For the ones that still had some hope left were in a minority and were ridiculed by the others. It really bothered him because he still felt there was something amiss and that Santa was watching them right then. Maybe he was being tested. And he was determined to pass this test. In fact this was now the only thing that mattered to him and the thrill of working on something so important gave him a sense of purpose.
One clear afternoon two men came and signed the adoption papers to take John away from the orphanage. He was secretly happy to leave this bunch of pessimistic kids. He went with them to their house which in his opinion looked more of a warehouse than a living place. He could find a host of people working on different tables and different sorts of men running around with crates. But almost all of them had a smile on their face and it gave him solace whenever someone would smile back at him. He instantly started liking the place and his adopters. He was soon given a bread to fill his stomach. It was too miserly even by his standards still he accepted it gleefully still absorbing the warmth of the place. He tried talking to the men in the house but was told to not disturb them as they were doing something important.
As night was fast approaching he was showed the way to a room in the corner where he would find a single mattress to lay on. He could not understand where the rest of the men would be sleeping. Probably they would sleep outside or else they might even work through the night. That night he could not sleep properly. It was because of two reasons – the sounds that the men were making outside and also because there was an eerie sensation which he could not understand. He looked around as he felt someone was looking at him but saw no one. He went to the window and looked around the neighbourhood. It was a dark December night and somewhere in the distance he could hear bells ringing. That was when he understood that it was Christmas Eve. He immediately started scanning the skyline to see if he can spot Santa flying around in his sleigh steered by the majestic reindeers. It was difficult to make out anything as there was practically no light. This was really odd as he would find the whole street lighted up this time of the year when he was at his old house with his mother. He stood there watching the place for some more time and as there was nothing else to do he came back to his spot and slept.
When the first ray of morning sun filled the room he was woken up by a sudden jolt by a broad shouldered man. He immediately sat up and started looking around to make out what would come next. Two other men were sitting inside the room watching him and the man. He looked back at the man who smiled this time and told him that he would be taking him to a Christmas party. He could not believe his luck as he had always wanted to go watch the city and have fun while it was decorated by a million lights during Christmas. He was given a bag to take along with him which was unreasonably heavy. It must be having all the provisions for tonight - including cakes and confectionaries.
While he walked around the town along with the man he was awe struck by the beauty that was Christmas. He had always heard that the main town is painted in green and red which are the predominant Christmas colours. But witnessing it was very different altogether. Dancing children and laughing couples with the best dressed families added to the cheer and the excitement. They soon came across a huge gathering that was assembled outside the main church of the city to pray. It seemed that the number of devotees outmatched the capacity of the main hall and as such people were crowded outside. He closed his eyes and started thanking Santa for this wonderful experience. He had not seen Santa yet but was now sure that he existed, why else would he grant him all this happiness? He had finally succeeded in convincing Santa that he is a nice boy. It brought in him a sense of pride and achievement. After what seemed to be ages he opened his eyes. He looked back to see at his companion but was shocked to find unknown faces all around. Strangely he did not worry nor did he panic. He closed his eyes again and said “Santa, can I meet you?” With a flash of blinding light it all went blank.
The explosion thundered throughout the town.