Originally not aired on ??/??/????
I did it. I had my first mince pie of the year.
For some it signifies the start of Christmas when they first chow down on that spicy-fruity concoction again, but for me it signifies the dashing of hope.
The thing is, I hate mince pies. Like, properly hate them. They taste awful. I don’t like the mixture of flavours, and I can only imagine that the person who invented mince pies thought to themselves, “How do I ruin pies, spices and fruit all at once?”
They’re so sticky and dry -- I found last week’s election result easier to swallow than a mince pie. As much as I hate Boris, at least he’s not pretending to be a tasty pie; and when the NHS gets dismantled, it means I’ll die quicker when I choke on one of the horrible things. It’ll all work out. And also, my Facebook is full of people who have the same view as me on the Tories, but when it comes to mince pies, even my echo chamber disagrees with me. Everyone loves them.
So every year, I try one again, thinking that maybe my tastes will have changed. That’s the hope. Because I want to fit in. I like the idea of mince pies, or I guess, more precisely, I like the idea of being someone who likes mince pies. But my tastes don’t change, and I’m stuck being the same old me.
One thing I didn’t like the idea of, however, was chatting to today’s guest on the unrecorded podcast “Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Gingerbread Lattes”, Sachin Kumarendran. Delightfully dour and magnificently monotone, Sachin is one of my favourite comedians around at the moment. With tight punchlines, and routines carved out finer than your mum’s Christmas Turkey, Sachin is certainly one to watch. But is he one to talk to?
“How’s it going, Sachin?” I asked, as I took the first tentative sip of my gingerbread latte.
“Yeah, alright,” he said, “considering existence is bounded by death and that malevolence lurks around every corner.”
“Right, okay,” I said. This is what I was worried about. “So I guess you’re just as dour in real life?”
“Is that a question,” he replied, showing no emotion whatsoever in his face. “Or is it a statement? A pathetic, asinine statement that only highlights your inadequacy as an interviewer.”
Given Sachin’s emo-ness, it might surprise you to learn that away from comedy he works as Santa Claus in Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre.
“I can’t imagine you as Santa, Sachin,” I said. “Do you have to pretend to be more enthusiastic?”
“Nope. The kids ask me what they’re getting for Christmas, and I’m honest with them.”
“What do you say?”
“I tell them they’re getting indoctrinated by a culture that values material possessions over anything else; that they’re childhood years are first and foremost a training camp, where they’re stripped of their humanity and turned into consumers that are
easily controlled by elites. I tell them to resist, to not become attached to things, because sooner or later those things will be gone. Everything comes to an end, including childhood.”
I laughed, awkwardly. There was no indication that what he said was a joke, but I didn’t know how to respond.
“Do you not worry you’ll get fired?” I asked.
“Not really. I came close once when a kid pulled my beard off.”
“He screamed, ‘You’re not Santa!’ I told him he was correct, but that I was just the first of many people in his life that he would discover to be an imposter. In future, he shouldn’t be so naïve and trusting, or the uncaring universe will trample all over him.”
I have no idea how Sachin’s managed to hold onto his job, but he was certainly holding onto my attention. He seemed totally at ease, never wavering in his depressive demeanour, always maintaining eye contact, just comfortable in his own skin. I kinda fancied him. He was almost aggressively authentic.
“Have you always been like this, Sachin?”
He took a quick sip of his gingerbread latte, seemingly uninterested by its flavour.
“I used to be much more fake,” he said. “Especially at university. I used to go to parties, pretend to enjoy them. I’d be upbeat around my friends because I worried they wouldn’t accept me otherwise.”
“And why did you change?”
“Because being like that felt wrong. I felt fake. It was acting; it was a lie. It took too much effort to live a lie; I had to be conscious of how I was coming across all the time. I had to remember all my previous interactions with people, so I could ensure I was keeping up the same character they wanted from me.”
“Yeah, I suppose that can get a bit draining.”
“It’s like the old saying,” he said. “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. It’s the same with living your truth. All I know is that, since I’ve embraced being miserable, I’ve been much happier.”
With that, I wrapped up the interview.
My conversation with Sachin had given me a lot to think about. I got home, went into the kitchen and saw the remaining 5 of the 6 pack of mince pies I’d opened earlier sitting on the counter. I picked up the pack and threw it into the bin.
All I want for Christmas is to be myself.
Tune in next time!