At six, I realised there was no Santa. How deep did the lies go? | Life and style

Christmas was at all times such a magical time for me when I was younger, and the starting of December 1970, crammed with pleasure and anticipation, was no totally different. I was six and although I had already found out there was no Santa, I didn’t fairly perceive how presents materialised in the pillowcase yearly hung from the put up of my higher bunk mattress. My dad and mom had been adamant about Santa’s existence, however my buddies and older brothers had confirmed the terrible, heart-wrenching, nihilistic fact of my suspicions.

There have been lots of different existential questions in my thoughts that 12 months. What was demise? Did individuals significantly spend eternity in a field buried underground? What in the event that they awakened? At college, the different of an eternity in heaven was offered by our overtly Christian trainer and, on stability, heaven positively sounded preferable to an afterlife of maggot-ridden decomposition. The caveat of full religion and devotion to a bearded man who floated on a cloud appeared a small worth to pay for eternal bliss. God even appeared rather a lot like Santa, solely his beard was extra straggly and his go well with much less enjoyable. Perhaps God delivered the presents. Sorted. Roll on Christmas.

Then got here the curve ball. I bear in mind, that December, taking a look at {a photograph} in my mum and dad’s bed room. I stared in shock. I requested who was in the image. “That’s Rabindranath Tagore,” replied my mum. “He wrote performs, songs and poems.” My mouth dropped open at this tall, white-bearded determine, who the nice pandit-ji Ravi Shankar would later in life inform me “appeared like the solar”. “How many individuals out there have this look?” I puzzled. “There’s God, Santa and now this dude. All with big beards and a smart grin.” It was disconcerting. Which one delivered the presents?

Nitin Sawhney aged 6, in 1970
Nitin Sawhney aged 6, in 1970 {Photograph}: Courtesy of Nitin Sawhney

That December my mum additionally began explaining Hinduism to me. I understand it was then as a result of I bear in mind what I was practising on the piano. Out of the blue, there had been tons extra gods, however the beards various vastly. Many had no beards in any respect. There have been additionally goddesses, which confused me as a result of the solely feminine I’d heard of in Christianity ran round bare in a backyard, tempting a person to observe her, with an apple. Additionally, with Hinduism you had been cremated after demise, which appeared altogether much less boring.

I advised my mum we had been being offered with an alternate perspective at college, of everlasting damnation or heavenly bliss versus the much less intimidating magical tales of Krishna and Ganesh at residence. She stated that Hinduism accepted all different faiths and every thing was actually about being a great individual. That helped rather a lot, as a result of I’d heard Santa solely gave presents to children who had been good. So even when there was no Santa, whoever was going to provide me the presents felt my ethical fibre was essential. The whole lot appeared to tie up. Roll on Christmas.

That 12 months I couldn’t wait to see the TV animation of Rudolph the Pink-Nosed Reindeer. I’d watched it the 12 months earlier than and it was the most magical factor I’d ever seen. I beloved Rudolph. I might already play the theme tune on the piano, and Rudolph himself was merely implausible.

Then it got here, and I was so disenchanted and unmoved. Rudolph had misplaced his magic. If there was no Santa, I realised, then Rudolph couldn’t presumably be actual or significant. Similar to the Lone Ranger was fiction too. Individuals had been making these things up. How deep did the lies go?

Christmas lastly got here and I waited up in mattress the complete night time. Who ought to I anticipate? Might I be fallacious about Santa? Was he actual in any case? Or would I be visited by another bloke with an extended, extra flowing beard? Or ought to I anticipate somebody blue with eight arms and an elephant trunk? I’d seen a kind of on the lounge wall and I’d been advised that was additionally God. Positively not the one Miss Churchill talked about in school although. Hmm.

So, early on Christmas morning, when Dad ran guffawing into the room and slapped a pillowcase stuffed with presents on my mattress, I simply shouted: “Dad? What are you doing?”

Perception is such a wierd factor, I discovered that Christmas. If we wish to consider one thing, we appear to disregard actuality until we now have no selection. I do miss that magical world although … the world earlier than dad bumped into my room with no beard or further arms … earlier than I found the lies you hear as an grownup are far much less harmless and well-meaning than these accompanied by marvellous, heat, cosy goals.

To mark Coventry’s tenure as UK Metropolis of Tradition, and the sixtieth anniversary of Coventry Cathedral, Nitin Sawhney has been commissioned to create a brand new site-specific efficiency in response to Benjamin Britten’s Conflict Requiem. Ghosts in the Ruins takes place on 27-29 January. Tickets can be found at

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