It’S the season of cheer. But, against the backdrop of spiraling global recession and a looming threat of terror, Christmas — the festive calendar’s most sought after date for its lights, love and radiance — is witnessing a lull.

“Indulgent merrymaking is making way for self-introspection and meaningful soulsearching,” opines author and ex-hotelier Advaita Kala, adding, “Post the Mumbai carnage I’ve decided to organise a reunion of my management batch. Having lost several of our friends, we’ve realised how essential it is to reach out to people whom we take for granted.”

Robbed of its effusive radiance, the yuletide season wears a subdued look as revelers huddle under the shadow of imminent terror. Waluscha Robinson, wife of c h o r e og rap h e r Marc Robinson, admits, “As a family, we’re tremendously insecure, especially about our children’s safety. We’ve decided to skip the traditional midnight mass at St. Andrews ground in Bandra as large congregations are potent terror targets. Ironically, we had enjoyed a sumptuous Christmas lunch at the Taj Mahal hotel last year, but this time we’re planning to keep it quiet at home.”

Maria Goretti, wife of actor Arshad Warsi says, “Being an actor, my husband’s away for 20 days a month. Being alone with my kids during the turbulence made me realise the value of my family. This Christmas, I just want to hold them close to me.” Festive splurging is low as one looks for more meaning to it all. Actress Malaika Arora Khan claims, “Usually, I go all out to buy gifts. This year, my friends and I are pooling resources for families of the terror victims.”

However, the overwhelming sense of despondency is giving way to reinforcing familial ties. “It’s been seven years since I saw my brother in India,” admits 36-year-old investment banker Sudhir Garg, a US citizen who’s headed home this season. “We fell out after my father’s death owing to property tussles. I’ve decided to surprise my brother with a year-end visit. Who knows what tomorrow holds?” feels Sudhir. Ad guru Prahlad Kakkar adds, “Frenzied party hopping is making way for intimate dinners. The age of materialism is under review as everything is transient now. Before I retreat to Lakshwadeep for New Year, I intend to meet all the people who’ve babysat me through the good and bad times. Christmas would be soulless without their love. It’s time to say, ‘thank you’.”

The gilded glitter of gourmet meals, luxurious holidays and extravagant spoils is assuming a backseat as the swish set minimises its festive finery. Like the festival of Eid, Christmas too is a quiet affair. “Christmas day parties just feel so superficial in the present reality,” observes socialite Riddhima Kapoor Sahni. Image consultant Dilip Cherian, whose annual Christmas lunch is the toast of the party circuit in the Capital holds, “Social dos are now about reinforcing personal relationships, and not forging business ties.” Model Nina Manuel claims house parties are the new rave, “Hopefully, the party meter will pick up as we learn to move ahead.”

Even New Year celebrations seem to be lack lustre. Tinsel town beauties Katrina Kaif, Rakhi Sawant and Neha Dhupa have all cancelled their Christmas and New Year performances. Slated to perform at Mumbai’s plush JW Marriott hotel for a whopping Rs 1 crore, Kaif has even gone on record to state, “At a time like this, it’s insensitive of me to celebrate. My spirit is very low.” Item girl Rakhi Sawant also declared, “I can't join in the revelry when my Mumbai is burning.”

Goan designer Wendell Rodericks, however, feels that the present crisis is a powerful reminder of the true message of Christmas. “I’ll decorate my house with diyas instead of bright lamps, streamers and baubles to reiterate that Christmas embodies peace and broth erly love. Prayers will replace parties for sure,” says Wendell. Waluscha adds, “For the sake of our children, we must put up a brave front. I’ve decorated my Christmas tree way in advance and the star of Bethleham is up at my home. I intend to evoke a message of eternal hope that Christmas is symbolic of. We must live in faith, not fear.”

Every great tragedy brings in its wake a life lesson. So, as we pick up the pieces, let’s come home to some loving this Christmas.


The recent terror attacks gave grace under pressure a new definition. Many went way beyond their job brief to become heroes as they risked their lives to put others first. V. D. Zende, the announcer at the CST railway station, directed a trainload of passengers to a safe exit before terrorists tried to gun him down. The Taj GM, Karambir Singh Kang, led his guests to freedom as his own wife and children perished.

What is it about a crisis that brings people together, making leaders out of ordinary people? Marathi actor Sonali Khare, recalls how the staff made the situation bearable the night they were stuck at the Zodiac Grill, on the ground floor of the Taj with around 45 others. She says, “The staff was so sweet and hospitable throughout. My husband also tried to lighten the mood by joking constantly and opening wine bottles.” At one point, when her strapping sixfeet-tall husband wanted to try making an exit through the main door not far away, he was stopped by a short, young Taj employee. She recounts, “The girl, Gunita, insisted that she would be the one leading us out and risking the bullet. She refused to let us out till she got an all-clear from the security personnel of the hotel. She and the others went way beyond the call of duty.”

Sushant Kamath, of the Mumbai bar Bootlegger’s, talks about how complete strangers bonded as they caught the news on television and called their homes when gunshots shook the bar. He says, “The gunmen left from CafĂ© Leopold, firing all the time, before going to Nariman House nearby. We pulled down the shutters but could hear continuous firing all night long. We felt helpless, but angry. We wanted to stand up and fight.”

Delhi-based cosmetic dentist Aman Sapra recalls the day of the blasts in September this year. He found himself stuck in a cafe in Connaught Place along with several others. He says, “Some people’s cellphone batteries were dead and others loaned theirs so they could call their families.”

A Mumbai journalist recalls the 2006 Mumbai train blasts, when a lone voice of reason saved several lives in his compartment. He boarded the 5.54 p.m. Churchgate to Borivli train like any other day. However, there was a thud, followed by smoke billowing from the coach ahead that told them there was something wrong. Some people tried to jump off the train, but, “A man stopped us. He said we should wait till the train stopped or we could be injured.” When it finally stopped at Mahim, they discovered that many others had jumped to their death from the moving train.

Says corporate trainer Khushroo Pithawalla, who conducts team bonding workshops, “At these times, we go beyond our fears and insecurities. Complete involvement in what needs to be done in the moment is like a deep meditative state that people pursuing the spiritual path aspire for.”

He explains, recalling his flying days when he risked his life to save a friend in trouble, “The high level of attentiveness in these situations saved both of us.”

However, while teams can push each other to excel, it can work the other way too. Not too long ago, the celeb contestants of the show Big Boss did an “escape” by jumping the walls of the house. They later blamed it on the moment, and were willing to take the rap for the act.

According to a study on “imitative obesity”, the weight of those around you can subconsciously cause yours to yo-yo too. So, fat friends can cause someone to put on weight too, researchers suggested after surveying over 27,000 people from across Europe.

Advises Pithawalla, “A group that does not push each other towards self realization can never form strong bonds.” It’s performing well together in a crisis situation and beyond that bonds people, and creates memories for life.


Its 5Am and you are awake--palms sweaty, mind racing. You're worried about your life, your kids, your parents, your promotion. Ever though what are people thinking about you?

The sad truth about modern life is: We are becoming worrywarts! We worry about everything! We worry about what the 'what-ifs' in life.

In an all-India survey across 8 Indian cities, worriers were asked to write down everything that bothered them; 80 percent people worried most about their family, 75 per cent about relationships. All Indians were worried about losing their self esteem!

Risking one's self respect is sure to result in tense moments. Says actor Zulfi Sayed, "When we were inside Bigg Boss in a confinement, we worried about our image. How are we being shown, what are people thinking about us? It became an obsession."

Top worries are personal health, money, relationships, money followed by crime, the cost of living, terrorism and children's future. But silly worries count too: A teenager worries that her mom may find her secret diary, another schoolgirl worries about her dog being fat.

Interestingly, 80 percent people in Mumbai worry about moneyover family or relationships. They are also concerned about what people think about them. While 80 percent Delhites and Bangaloreans worry mainly about relationships, people in Ahmedabad really worry about losing their self-respect.

Interestingly, in his book, The Worry Cure, author Robert Leahy writes, worriers respond differently to frightening situations than other people. They stay upset, rather than becoming less anxious overtime, According to Psychology Today, worry is often like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do, but doesn’t necessarily get you anywhere. Says a spiritual guru Ma Naina, from Osho Delhi, "To put an end to worries, you have to live in the present--then, there's no past and no future.

Another Spiritual Guru says, "We spend spirit energy when we worry. It saturates us."

So, we are wired to worry? In these terror times, we're all worried about our security. Says a vice chairman of a company, "I've had women wanting to know how to safeguard themselves, how to use weapons, men wanting to know if sniffer dogs can protect them, parents wanting to train kids to deal with panic. Corporates are worried about bomb threats."

There are different kind of worriers too. Jackie, 24, a mountaineering instructor says, " I worry about small things that I can't control!"

The good thing about worrying is that it can mobilize us into action. Like Anju Chauhan, author of Zoya Factor, who worries about whether her kids are eating right. "I don’t worry about long term stuff," she says.

Most worry today is about everyday things rather than long term threats. Says a classical dancer, "I worry about old age. Small, daily irritants can be bothersome. Right now, the economic downturn is occupying a lot of my mind space. I think also about how there's lack of sensitivity today.

Evolution may have given us the opportunity to worry, but that doesn’t mean we should take the bait. It seems people also worry a lot before they make big, life-changing decisions. But there's no need to kill yourself with worry. The website logs 853 health worries, 580 current affairs worries, 333 money worries. That's a lot of worrying going around the world.

Bosnian fitness expert wants to help create a worry-free world. "Indians worry about small things. We waste our lives worrying, but it can't change anything. So why worry?"