Wednesday, January 07, 2009

While on hold

Christmas celebrations in the Middle East can vary depending on where in the mid east you are. Some are, believe it or not, a little liberal than most. Saudi Arabia for instance, does not tolerate any other religions. My uncle, TigerBeer often watches Christian services on TV and will on seperate occasions also sneak in some liquor to celebrate the holidays or just any weekend. Alchohol is not permitted in the Kingdom.

But like I said, not all Muslim countries are that conservative. Growing up, most malls in Dubai had Christmas trees, lights and Christmas décor. We were not allowed, however, to put up any stars. In India, having a lit up paper made star hanging off the balcony outside one's home is an integral part of Christmas décor. These Christmas stars really are beautiful, one more elaborate than the next, some even depicting the Nativity scene. This was something I missed during all those Christmases in Dubai. The reason it was taboo was not because it was Christian but because of the fact that the star also represents the Star of David. The Star is to the Jewish people, what the cross is to Christians.

Back in those days my mother worked for a government institution. Every time we'd call her at work, and were put on hold, a lovely little tune played, probably preselected by one of their phone tech guys. It's a tune that has been ingrained in our brains, because that's how often we'd call Mom while she was at work – and that's how often we were put on hold, especially when we kids were misbehaving. Time out was a tune we had to listen to. Of course, back in the day we didn't know the name of the tune, nor the words.

Fast forward to many years later and much older, and rifling through a hymn book at Church where I turn to the required tune and as we begin to sing it, it hits me. THIS IS THE NAMELESS TUNE!!!! Oh! I looked over at my mother with eyes wide open with recognition, then delight and finally satisfaction and began talking.

This nameless tune now had a name and the lyrics went like this:
What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Oh satisfaction indeed. Dubai is not the kind of place where it's completely anti-Christian, there are many churches, schools that have been named after Christian godheads and saints. And I believe that all places should be tolerant of all religions no matter where. And not being allowed to put up a Christmas star took something away from me all those years. But while I'd imagine many many Arabs would call in for Customer Service related queries all the while being oblivious to the fact that they were listening to a Christian Carol about Christ the King while on hold – now that's giving me something back.

I wonder if that tune is still played while people are put on hold...


Mom said...

Good one sweetie. You have excellent memory!

The Bearded One said...

Actually, the original predates the hymn by hundreds of years...