Lyceum Christmas Tales #8: Bobby & Rabia, by Hammaad Chaudry
This winter, the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh has commissioned a series of Christmas stories from some of Scotland’s best-loved writers, performances of which will be available to view online. Here, we publish an extract from Bobby & Rabia by Hammaad Chaudry, along with a link to the film
Asalaam Alaikum. This is Rabia Khan. From Scotland. Edinburgh to be exact. You might not have heard of – you probably haven’t heard of me, you haven’t heard of me because I’ve never written to you before.
This is the first time I’m writing to you in fourteen years of life…and yes, it does feel kind of weird. I hope you exist. My pal Lisa swears you do exist. She swears she saw you tumbling down the chimney and leave her a Gameboy.
I hope you exist. I need hope in my life nowadays.
My family usually doesn’t celebrate Christmas, you see, we’re a Muslim family and we celebrate Eid instead. But this year I feel alone. My mother passed way, and it’s left me empty. I feel like – I wonder – if a Christmas present, a Christmas miracle will help me feel…warm.
I would like a pair of red shiny shoes, the kind that Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz wore. You see Dorothy was on a journey, walking to find something. I’m also walking to find something, I just don’t know what…perhaps those red shoes can guide me to where I need to be.
I love the world that I’ve been brought up in, the world that I live in. But that world is empty without mama. Maybe I can find something in your world…
They say you can make miracles happen…I could do with a miracle in my life, Rabia
…And on a snowy Christmas Eve, there he is, Santa Clause in Edinburgh, gliding above the meadows. But Santa was in trouble. Big Trouble. His sleigh was suddenly running out of its special petrol. You see, its special petrol was made out of “coco pops”. And no shop was open, so he couldn’t have his “special bowl of coco pops”. The Sleigh would go left, it would go right, it would go up, it would go down…Santa was about to crash.
“Rudolph!” Santa said, “Where is the safest place to land!?”
“I have no idea!” Rudolph responded, “I don’t know Edinburgh, I only know Glasgow”. “Well who cares about Glasgow!” Santa bellowed.
Santa crashes into the nearby winding cobbled streets of Grassmarket. But the landing is not as bumpy as expected. Because Santa has crashed upon something. A small dog, A Skye Terrier to be exact. And to Santa’s surprise, the dog spoke.
“Oi! What’re you playing at?” Exclaimed the dog.
“So sorry!” Responded Santa. “We crashed, and unfortunately crashed on you. So terribly sorry” “Terribly sorry” Rudolph chimed in.
“Let me introduce myself. I’m Santa Clause. Yes, the Santa.” “And yes, I’m the Rudolph”
“Well…I’m the Greyfriars Bobby” “Greyfriars Bobby!?” Proclaimed Santa.
“The Greyfriars Bobby?” Asked Rudolph. “Yes” affirmed Bobby.
(Santa) “The most famous dog in the world?”
(Bobby) “Yep. That’s the one.”
Bobby informed them that he leaves his statue form every Christmas eve. Bobby comes back every Christmas so he can be present at Greyfriars Kirkyard where his owner John Gray is buried, and be by his side.
“How lovely” said Santa.
“But what on earth happened to you?” asked Bobby, the small dog.
“Ho, ho, ho I was in Luxembourg, delivering the last Christmas present, we had delivered to every child celebrating Christmas. But then I found a letter…”
(Rudolph) “Actually I found the letter.” (Santa:) “Yes, Rudolph found the letter.” “From a girl named Rabia”, informed Rudolph. (Santa:) “Yes, a girl named Rabia.”
“I know a girl named Rabia.” Said Bobby. “You know Rabia?” An excited Santa asked.
“She comes to visit me from Glasgow” Bobby told them
(Santa:) “No, no, Rabia is not from Glasgow.” “I know Glasgow”, said Rudolph.
“Who cares about Glasgow!” Said Santa, again. He went on, “This Rabia is from Edinburgh. Leith. Union Street. Opposite the Playhouse, just round the corner from the Deep Sea fish and chip shop.”
“I love their brown sauce!” Says Rudolph.
Santa continues, “I had only enough coco pops to fuel our sleigh for all the children celebrating Christmas. But…Rabia’s family does not celebrate Christmas. So I didn’t plan for her you see” “She’s Muslim, and Muslims have their own celebration. It’s called Eid.” Rudolph informs us. “Unfortunately we don’t do Eid.” Santa tells Bobby,
“We don’t do Eid.” Repeats Rudolph.
“And they have two Eid’s! We just couldn’t do that many presents!” Says Santa. “Aww, poor Rabia. She won’t have her Christmas this year”
“Why not?” Bobby says, “Just go along the Royal Mile and take The News Steps…you can be there in twenty minutes.”
“The Royal what?” Santa asks
“The News who?” responds Rudolph.
“We’d be lost before we’ve even begun” says Santa.
“Ha, you guys make me laugh. I know Edinburgh like the back of my paw. I know Edinburgh and Edinburgh knows me”.
(Santa) “Well, funny you say that Bobby…because Rabia’s family home does have a dog flap”
“Nope. Not gonna happen” a stubborn Bobby responds. “I only have half an hour left before the gates to the graveyard shut. I have to be in and out before then. I only come alive once a year to be with my owner, John Gray, and that is it. And you’ve already been wasting my time.”
(Santa) “…Yeah it can’t happen. Can it Rudolph? I mean…I wonder if Bobby even knows how to get there without getting lost.” Says Santa.
“Oh yeeaahh” chimes in Rudolph. “He’s a small dog. Doesn’t have it in him. Running around a small graveyard sure, but –
“But running across Edinburgh, forget about it.” Proclaims Santa. “Forget about it” agrees Rudolph.
“Listen you two”, Bobby speaks up, “I have run across all of Scotland, heck, I could run across all of England if I cared about England.”
“Do you buy it Rudolph?” Asks Santa.
(Rudolph) “He’s sellin it, but I ain’t buyin it.”
(Santa) “He can’t do it.”
(Rudolph) “Nope. He’s just a small dog”.
(Santa) “A “wee” dog”.
(Rudolph) With “wee” legs.
“Give me the damn present! I’ll show you.” Says a defiant Bobby. “I’m more – much more – than a “wee” dog! I am Greyfriars Bobby. The most famous dog in the world.”
Hammaad Chaudry writes…
I initially wanted tell a story about Edinburgh as the centre of Christmas. I also wanted tell the story of Scotland's if not the world's most famous dog, Greyfriars Bobby. In the streets of Edinburgh I wanted him to come alive to make our Christmas come to life too. Then to couple him with classic Christmas figures and bring them to Edinburgh, such as Santa and Rudolph.
I brought in the idea of a 14 year old Muslim girl named Rabia somewhat from my own experiences. Rabia did not grow up celebrating Christmas like myself, but instead celebrated the Muslim festival of Eid. In doing so there was a feeling of belonging to a world that was a bit different to the world where people celebrated Christmas. This Christmas, I wanted to bring these two worlds together through Rabia and Bobby, and see if it could lead them to some personal solace.
Another aspect that came to the forefront as I was writing was the question of mortality. Bobby comes back to be with his deceased owner John Gray, and Rabia is dealing with the loss of her mother. Through Bobby and his journey with mortality and the resting place of his owner, Rabia finds an opportunity to lay to rest her own demons to do with death, without fully finding her answers to her quest, but making peace with her questions.
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