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   And, as is my custom, I will now read out a special X'mas story... (December 24, 1986)

And, as is my custom, I will now read out a special X'mas story for children. Now then, everybody, read out:

It was the night before X'mas and Santa Claus was getting ready to leave for his usual round of visits to various homes to bring cheer and goodwill to them.

He filled his bags with promises, and since his reindeer were old, and, in any case, were modes of transport of the 20th century and he himself had moved into the 21st, he packed the bags into an air force plane. He was, of course, entitled to use the plane because he was Santa Clause.

For a moment, he thought of taking Mrs. Santa Claus along with him. These days he took her every where. But he dropped the idea since he felt that at X'mas there should be people with him who could smile.

Instead, he took with him his faithful chronicler to make notes of the various presents he would be giving to children along the way. The chronicler smiled, waved to TV cameras, and got into the plane. The whole X'mas Eve trip was to be televised, since a lot of people had stopped believing in Santa Claus and it was necessary for then to see him in person their TV screens.

Santa Claus first flew to Kashmir. He felt quite at home among the snow and the pine trees, and, to feel more at home, he put on a Kashmiri cap. His favourite chronicler also wanted to put on a Kashmiri cap, but Santa was quite firm. "No, Mani Shankar, no," he told him.

The Kashmiri children were happy with all the promises he distributed, but most happy was a doctor who had recently become a chief minister. He had already received his X'mas gift from Santa Claus a couple of months earlier.

Santa Claus did not stop in Punjab, since he thought the people of Punjab had been given their own Santa Claus, a fine elderly Santa with a flowing white beard, and he should distribute his own promises to them.

But Santa went to Darjeeling, put on a nice Nepali cap, and told the less than 200 children who gathered to receive their presents from him: "Yes, you will get your presents, and no, you will not get your presents."

All through the night Santa travelled across the country, stopping at various homes, wearing different caps, and distributing promises.

Different children wanted different things from him. In a village in Kerala, a child wanted the roof of his hut to be repaired. Santa promised to do so, asking his favourite chronicler to record the promise. In a village in Bihar, a child wanted food to eat. Szanta promised. In Maharashtra, one rather large child with a round face wanted to be chief minister. Santa kept silent. His favourite chronicler ordered the cameramen around not to film the incident.

The question, now, dear children, is whether the promises will be kept. And the answer is no. After all, he is only a Santa Claus, he cannot work miracles. Only prime minister can work miracles.

 
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