The Christmas Story Retold in the Age of Apps

Humour

The Christmas Story Retold in the Age of Apps

Illustration: Sushant Ahire/Arré

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ccording to middle-school history books across India, the story of Good Governance Day, which is celebrated on December 25 every year, is believed to have begun with a woman called Meena melodramatically telling Jaideep, “Mai bhagwan ke bacche ki maa ban ne wali hu.” Jaideep, the good guy that he is, does not think, “Shit, gaon chhodke jaana padega.” He is more like “mere toh bhaag khul gaye.” Turns out, he wasn’t wrong.

Our story begins with a young Jaideep, who works in a dead-end, nine-to-five IT job. One fine morning, he decides to get on Tinder, looking to add some spice to his life. He matches with a girl named Meena, who works in HR, organising traditional days and office-painting contests. Meena isn’t there to hook up. She’s one of those good girls who is on Tinder for coffee and long conversations. Jaideep’s meagre income and waning libido (courtesy radiation from long hours on his laptop) meant those were the only two things he could afford.

Meena and Jaideep were an ideal match. They shared a love for Bollywood music, Dance India Dance, and all the other simple things in life. One thing led to another and they decided to live together, in a rented house in the poorer parts of the city, in direct contravention of our sanskriti.

In the old Christmas tale (a day also coincidentally celebrated on December 25),  an angel appears out of nowhere to tell Mary that she will become the mother of the Son of God, the saviour of mankind. Our Meera doesn’t encounter angels; just a judgemental gynaecologist who shakes her head at Meena’s life choices. When Meena tells Jaideep that she is bearing a child, like Joseph, Jaideep’s first reaction is shock and disbelief. After all, second base was as far as they’d gone. Perhaps Dr Watsa had been wrong, dry humping could lead to pregnancy. In any case, Jaideep was down for whatever was to happen, he loved Meena to bits. They kept Meena’s sudden weight gain under wraps, attributing it to a staple diet of McAloo Tikki and Maggi, and countering any inquisitiveness with strong accusations of fat-shaming.

One day, a neighbour spotted Meena unboxing a pair of baby clothes from Amazon, and the ruse was up. Just like in the days of yore, when ignorance was bliss and sanitation a hit-and-miss, people didn’t approve of Meena carrying a child before she’d posed for the pre-wedding and wedding photos.

And so it came to be that the predominantly Gujju society, where they’d rented a one-BHK, took cognizance of the matter and decreed that the couple could not live there — it went against the morals of the society. Plus the neighbouring aunty claimed she often smelled fish and meat being cooked in the house. To make matters worse, the couple had adopted a stray dog, Brownie.

Non-veg, kutta, aur abhi bina shaadi ke pregnant? The unsanskari-ness of this whole affair would alter the very fabric of their existence. The couple was evicted. A Facebook post about their plight garnered some attention online, but it mostly consisted of trolls slut-shaming Meena. Then a few hours later, the trailer for a movie about some gangster-politician featuring an actor looking intense on a poster dropped, and everyone forgot about Jaideep and Meena.

"In the old Christmas story, Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem (Joseph’s hometown) took a couple of days, but Jaideep’s destination, Bhayander, was four hours away — which is the millennial equivalent of travelling four days on a donkey."

It was then that Jaideep decided to take matters into his own hands. Thanks to RERA, flats were cheaper, so Jaideep decided to look for a new house. After all, Meena would pop any day now. Leaving Meena at home to rest, Jaideep set out on the long journey to the suburbs, to find a broker who’d help put a roof over their heads. But nary a broker was to be found. Then, one day, a Muslim friend told him about a society in Bhayander that was a haven for people who couldn’t find homes. It housed unmarried couples, minorities, Africans, and everyone else unwelcome in the land of superficial dreams.

Jaideep and Meena had little choice but to move to Bhayander. Jaideep called an Uber to the rented house and dumped their belongings into a moving van. After an hour of directing the driver Umashankar, who kept taking wrong turns and claimed to be five minutes away from the their pick-up location even though the ETA said 10, Jaideep, Meena and their unborn child, finally began the journey to Bhayander.

In the old Christmas story, Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem (Joseph’s hometown) took a couple of days, but Jaideep’s destination was four hours away — which is the millennial equivalent of travelling four days on a donkey. The Uber snaked its way across the highway, which was jammed with traffic because of the latest infra project that some political party is using to get some votes. All seemed to be going well for Jaideep until they crossed Dahisar.

Jaideep’s suddenly felt some liquid on his feet. He was about to chide Meena for spilling her Frappuccino on his feet, until he realised the cup in her hand was intact. This was happening, the baby was coming. Meena went into labour and Umashankar, the driver, went hysterical. He had just arrived in Mumbai three days ago! How the fuck could this happen? He abruptly stopped the trip and told the both of them to get the fuck out. That amniotic fluid would leave a stain, Umashankar’s rating would fall, his incentives would take a nosedive!

Meena begrudgingly alighted the Uber, while Jaideep tried to hail a rickshaw on the highway and complain to Uber at the same time (good luck, Jaideep). No rickshaws were to be found, so they began walking, looking for someplace Meena could rest. All this while, Meena was in labour and had no idea how to alleviate the pain. Googling “labour pain” only led to rants about how men ignore women’s feelings all the time. No practical use. Jaideep booked another Uber, ignoring the 60-rupee cancellation from the previous one, and decided to head to the nearest hospital, which turned out to be a five-star one.

Once there, Jaideep and Meena were kept waiting at a swank reception until the payment had been processed. At the counter, Jaideep was informed that the only room available is an uber-deluxe Bebe-branded suite. It cost a lakh a day, but it was all worth it since they used 24K gold needles and Swarovski syringes to administer injections. The estimated bill would come to ₹5 lakh plus GST and birth complications. Jaideep chose an EMI option and put down a down payment. But alas, the card was rejected. Upon further inspection, it emerged that Jaideep had forgotten to link his Aadhar to his bank account.

Unable to foot the bill, the couple was shown the door. But like good millennials, they made it back home and in front of a laptop. Jaideep YouTubed the scene from 3 Idiots where Aamir Khan does a MacGyver — and prepares a device, using a plunger and washing machine, that’ll help him deliver babies.

The original story spoke of a Jesus born among the “less desirables” of society, in a stable surrounded by farm animals, labourers, and shepherds. Our modern couple had just as ordinary but good folk cheering for them: Aamir and his gang of idiots going “All izz well.”

Meena finally delivered a baby girl (#nomoregenderstereotypes) at midnight on December 25. They called her Jassu.The all-female Ghostbusters will be forgotten, so will be Ocean’s 8. But not Jassu.

Joy to the World

Jassu has come.

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