It was Christmas eve and I was wandering in a mall. I saw guys at various outlets dressed as Santa.
It was fun. Memories from the past came rolling back. In earlier years of my life, as Christmas approached, I used to imagine what would Santa bring to me.
The first time Santa (yes, a fake one) approached me was in one of my jobs, where the most obese guy in office was made to wear the dress and jump around, giving away candies to everyone.
Well, the real Santa never came. And then I grew up to know the reality.
I came back home from the mall and sat down to watch a movie.
At around midnight, the doorbell rang. I was surprised who could it be at that hour.
I opened the door reluctantly. I couldn’t believe what I saw. Then I thought someone was pulling a fast one on me. I too decided to have fun.
“Hey! Santa is here. What have you got for me?”
“Can I come in?”
I wasn’t sure about letting the stranger in. To get over my doubt, I tricked and tried to pull out the white flowing beard. Alas! It was stuck hard.
“It’s a real one son!”
This time the tone and the accent hit me. It wasn’t a usual one. It sounded, for lack of any other word, saintly.
Now I had goosebumps. Is this a real Santa? Oh God!
I stepped aside and Santa walked in.
“Can I sit?”
“Ye…! Yes please.” I fumbled.
“So, how has the year gone for you?” came the unexpected question.
“Yeah, it has been good, quite good, in fact, ………with your blessings…”
“How has it been for you, Santa?” I don’t know how that question blurted out from my mouth.
“Good, very good. Thank you. A lot has changed though.”
“Yes. I am sure. Over these centuries you have witnessed a lot of change.”
“No, no I am talking about just this year.”
“Oh really. How?”
“You see the world is more uncertain than before.” For a person who made a single appearance in a year, he was quite updated.
“Any words of advice for me, Santa.”
“Not much son. Accept this uncertainty as the new normal. Be ready for more pain – ups and downs. Be careful with your spending…put away that emergency fund. It will come handy in these uncertain times.”
“I would definitely. In fact, that is one aspect I focus with my clients too.” I guess I was feeling comfortable talking to him now.
“Yes, yes I know.” Not sure if I should have been surprised when he said that.
“Inflation is likely to remain low. Interest rates are headed lower too. You should tell your clients not to excite yourself into taking one more house loan. It beats me too as to why people are so excited about real estate. <pause> Asset allocation is still the king.” My jaw dropped open on hearing this. Was there something Santa didn’t know. He continued.
“Stock markets will be volatile in times to come. Like they have been always. If you want to park for short term, don’t even look at equities. Stick with the Fixed Income investments.” I heard him with amazement.
“Can I have some water?” he asked. I wasn’t sure if I heard him right.
“W.A.T.E.R….water” he repeated letter by letter.
“Oh yes!” I quickly got a glass of water for him.
“Santa is a know all. May be I should ask something difficult about the future?” I thought of myself as the smart one.
“Santa! Can you see into the future?” I let the words out.
He looked at me for a couple of seconds and responded, “No, no one can. But I know what you have in mind?”
“Really.” surprised yet again.
“Long term capital gains tax in equity!”
“My God. You are reading my mind.”
“Just years of practice.” He said as a matter of fact. I smiled.
“Long term capital gains tax might be back…. in equity. But that doesn’t make stocks a bad investment. Actually, people are expecting too much from coming budget – tax rebates, etc…They must realise that the whole process is being streamlined.” He spoke like a sage.
“Yes, you are right. Personally, even I won’t like the tax benefit going away. Though it just adds one more reason to see equity as a long term investment.” I added my two bits.
“I am glad you are thinking that way”, he said.
This approval made me feel as if I was on Cloud 9.
“Son, focus on the basics, always. Save regularly. Spend carefully. Invest wisely. Don’t be bothered much by what happens around.” I nodded to him.
“By the way, this is a great time to start on your own, to be an entrepreneur.” Santa was clearly with the times.
“Also, you need to spread more good in the world. If you have enough for yourself, then see if you want to fund others dreams too. A scholarship, an internship, even funding a startup can go a long way.” Santa was in his true spirits.
“What can I expect in 2017, Santa?” I tried my luck again.
‘You will get it”, was the short reply from Santa. He was reading my mind yet again.
“It’s time to go, son.” he said as he stood up.
I wasn’t happy with this very short meeting. Before I could say anything further, he pulled out a gift from his bag.
“Here, this book is for you.” he said handing over a nicely wrapped package to me.
My hands almost shook as I took it. I couldn’t believe I was getting a real gift from a real Santa.
“Thank you Santa.” I could hardly get the words out.
“God bless you, my son. Be of service. Have peace!”
Santa turned around and walked out. I put my hand up to stop but before I could say anything, he was away.
My childhood memories took over. I quickly rushed to the window and looked up in the sky. No, there wasn’t a sleigh with reindeers carrying Santa away.
May be he too has moved on with the times.
So, what had Santa got for me?
I opened the package and whoa, I was looking at the book. This one I had wanted for a long time.