When two boisterous men, both bearded to the teeth and turbaned to the gills, come together with Christmas in the air, bear hugs and mutual backslapping are expected to be the order of the day.
But at times, even the most perfect of scripts go awry and what follows is something starting with a P and has a demon in it. I think Pandemonium is the word I'm groping for, unless it's one of those chemical elements which sign off with an 'ium'.
So when Santa Clause met Bhajji, one expected them to hit it off like a house on fire. Instead, it turned out to be a harrowing experience for Father Christmas.
Bhajji was in a foul mood. In his elements, if you insist.
In contrast, Santa had enough warmth in his voice to force another Copenhagen as he greeted Bhajji.
The bonhomie was somewhat missing on Bhajji's part.
"Oye Papaji, mind your language. Has your Pyo brought the exclusive rights that you go about the town claiming 'Meri Christmas'? If you don't want me to box your ear, tell 'It's Everybody's Christmas'."
Santa shielded his bafflement with a patronizing smile.
"Well, it's everybody’s Christmas of course."
Bhajji sort of relented but clearly wasn't convinced of the stranger's bona fide.
"That's better. By the way, haven't seen you earlier. Who the hell are you?"
"I'm Santa Clause."
Bhajji's eyes bulged again.
What followed immediately is the experience I have undergone more than once in my childhood.
It's the standard modus operandi of the neighbourhood bullies to grab you by your arm, twist it as if it's a doorknob and pull it up like a lever till it's horizontal to the terra firma – thus pre-empting any resistance – before planting some of the juiciest on your defenceless back.
More than the assault itself, its suddenness had unnerved Santa and emanating from the depth of his facial undergrowth was an assortment of Err, Hey, Oh, Ouch, Stop, What-the-Hell before he finally managed to free himself from the vice-like grip.
Massaging his mangled arm, Santa sounded less genial as he instituted an inquiry.
"What the hell...I mean why did you attack me? You nearly yanked my arm off!"
Panting after his attempt at disarmament of the opponent, Bhajji was clearly baffled by his naivety.
"Why I beat you? Santa CLAUSE! Must be a relative of that *&%$#@ Whereabout Clause. Don't I know you have a bottle in your sack and you have been shadowing me all along to see when I relieve myself?"
Last remnants of geniality gone from his eyes — and honestly one could not blame him – Santa finally exercised some authority.
"Stop it, you moron. I don't know what the hell you are gibbering about. See, there is no bottle in my sack."
Bhajji was clearly shaken. At least stirred, if not shaken altogether.
"You mean you don't even know Whereabout Clause? I'm sorry then. No hard feelings, ok? See I slapped Sreesanth also and he too made peace later. We exchange dance steps now. You know what? Lalit Modi had actually threatened to auction us, not in IPL but among the cannibal tribes in Papua New Guinea, if we did not kiss and make up."
The change in air did little as Santa still eyed Bhajji with no little suspicion. Bhajji, on his part, was at his garrulous best, trying to strike a conversation.
"Sure you aren't Ramesh Powar trying to make a comeback in disguise? (laughs) I'm kidding buddy. So you come from North Pole? What brought you here?"
Santa was under the impression that Bhajji's query was on mode of transport.
Bhajji was surprised. He outstretched his arm and then looked at Santa.
"Rain! It's not raining dear. Why should it rain in winter? And I don't see Duckworth or Lewis either. They appear without failing whenever it rains."
A little explanation was the need of the hour but Bhajji retained that baffled look.
"Why reindeer man? Get a life, get a Hummer. I have one. Dhoni has one. If you want I can talk to the distributor for some discount."
Having retained his sang-froid, Santa finally opened his mouth.
"Thanks but no thanks. Sonny, my arm comes in the way of saying it was a pleasure meeting you. Never mind, I have something to give you before I depart."
Santa fished out a rolled strip and handed it over to Bhajji.
"I don't watch cricket but I'm told you've forgotten the basics. So I give you this tape to measure your line and length. You still will be left with another yard or so and for humanity's sake, tape your mouth with that. Bye."
(P.S. Reproducing this 2009 post for those who missed it)