Well,December is upon us, we’ve made it through 2021. Another year is coming to an end and you can hardly miss it. Whether we open up a newspaper, listen to the radio, watch television, the advertisements of Christmas ‘sales’ - stereo sets, multi-functional washing machines children’s toys- which are now beyond the reach of most ordinary citizens hit us in the eye.
Christmas songs and music fill the air - singers croon of a ‘White Christmas’ though most of us have never physically known snow, we see visual images of the same on TV.
Yes, Christmas is around the corner, and this year, it appears for now at least, that a more traditional Christmas is on the cards. With the numbers of people afflicted by the dreaded coronavirus and fatalities flowing from that disease falling, the laws governing restriction of movement, family gatherings etc have been loosened.
One remembers with a tinge of horror the past year’s fear of who would be the next victim of the virus, closed churches and no Christmas Mass.
This year looks to be out of that norm. We remember with dread last year’s lack of festivities - a time when Santa was unable to visit the homes of those children whose parents lost their employment and or lives to the Coronavirus. We did not visit aging parents or close relatives.
This had the effect of ruining Christmas for large sections of the Christian community. Yes, many things seem to be changing for the better this Christmas
At shopping malls brightly lit coloured bulbs adorn windows. Christmas trees have come up in shops, as they have in some homes in the city. Christmas cakes and sweetmeats fill the shelves of hotels. Large flyers and cutouts of scrumptious roast chickens and or turkey bekon us at hotels and bakeries. They tell us we can order our own roast from their kitchens.
So has anything changed this Christmas? The answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
On the one hand, it appears that the Covid-19 pandemic has been brought to controlable levels thanks to the vaccines and health guidelines put in place. But a new fast spreading varient (Omicron) has been discovered in South Africa.
Fortunately, the South African doctor who first recognised the new varient has said its symptoms are so far mild and could be treated at home.
But this Christmas season may still turn out to be a nightmare for large sections of the community.
While large numbers of those who lost their employment and those workers who had to accept salary cuts because of a ‘loss of business’ when the pandemic was all but out of control, are now employed and wage deductions largely restored, these people have now to repay the loans they obtained to keep body and soul together when the pandemic was at its height.
But today, in addition to loan repayment, they now face a sky-rocketing cost of living.(CoL)
The government which came into power promising to bring the CoL to affordable levels has miserably failed to keep its promise.
The cost of cooking gas has risen astronomically with a 12 kg cylinder of gas now costing Rs. 2,750/-. The cost of the same gas cylinder being increased by a hefty Rs. 1,257/- from midnight on October 10 this year!
Likewise the cost staples like rice and coconut have shot through the ceiling. At present, supply shortages and rising retail prices are causing severe fear and unrest in the population.
The recent fertiliser fiasco brought thousands of farmers onto the streets. Farmers who should have been tilling their fields were protesting on the streets. That farmers will face major losses this season is beyond doubt and they (farmers) form over 27% of the population according to government’s own statistics.
The price of a small packet of lunch (vegetable ‘rice packet’) has risen to Rs. 140/- plus.
Workers dependent on a daily wage comprise over 50% of the working population. These workers receive a monthly wage of less than Rs. 25,000/- per month. Yet, an average family consists of at least four persons, leaving a family very little for children’s education, clothes and travel after paying installments on loans they owe.
The workers and peasents will remain continually indebted and in the clutches of unregistered money lenders who charge exhorbitant interest on loans colloquically referred to as ‘gini poli’.
No Santa will be avoiding these sections of our population ‘like the COVID-19’.
For them as pop idol Elvis Presley used to sing ‘Its gonna be a blue, blue, Christmas’....