Nothing inspires the kind of frenzy that the evening of 31st December or Valentine’s Day do in this city, with the attached pressure planning or of being seen at a “happening” place/person.... even as all I feel like doing is vegetating in front of the television with a crisp pizza and some gooey chocolate cake for company, watching half of Bollywood shaking a leg on screen on NY Eve. Well, having made the usual rounds of New Year’s Eve “events” (farmhouse dos, fresh off the block nightclubs and sundry 'private' parties), it's exactly at the stroke of midnight during times like these that I've wondered what I was doing hugging complete strangers when I could be cozily swapping channels in the familiar environs of a warm home, or exchanging warmer bear hugs with mom and dad/ siblings/ select best friends. OR watching soapstars or Bollywigs shout out the new year amid lots of falling, glittering confetti. It's a recorded show, of course. They're all off to shinier places as well.
So, the strange thing is that, these days, simple pleasures are a hard commodity to sell. I remember a television advertisement for a popular shampoo brand, aired on a 31st December evening long ago, which had the following tagline: “…and all you losers who are sitting at home and watching this -- go out, get going!” One particular bunch of losers -- yours truly included, of course -- who had decided to stay at home that night and ring in the new year with faithful friends and finger food, felt rather sorry for themselves before making up their minds to accept their loser status and get on with it. So, we took off our high heeled shoes/ handmade leather shoes, and whiled the night away. It turned out to be one of the best New Year’s Eves in recent memory.
But there’s no escaping the fact that extravagance is the order of the day: Big and brash is beautiful, simple is simply not suitable. I am so tired of questions like: “Oh, where are you planning to go this winter?” simply because if I were to say Jaipur or ‘nowhere’ I fear that I’d come across as hopelessly un-cool and inadequate, as compared to those whose answer is “Uh, I’m just hopping across to Dubai for a weekend” or “the kids want to go to the Disneyland in Florida this year”. So, during conversations that usually follow such questions, I try not to glance at my modest red strap wali Titan ki ghadi, and smile politely at their dazzling Diors instead. Still, in all fairness to people I actually like to hang out with these days, such conversations are few and far between, and usually involve second-hand narrations. Mercifully.
So, when a friends enterprising eight-year-old son tried to sell me a handmade card with big red hearts on it last Valentine's Day (he also gave me a neck massage for 20 bucks, including a ten rupee tip, a while ago while telling me to do something about my lifeless hair), I couldn't help wondering: a handmade card? Really? These days? That used to be the stuff of painstakingly sweet gestures born of excess time to kill or art and craft classes at school, anachronisms both. Oh, and just a card? My goodness, how very plebian! Oh, and not just any gift would do. The bigger the brand; the better its value. But I like to think that's not me, missing the designer-wear gene as I do along with the one that inspires a great affection for jewellery. Well, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t secretly appreciate the designer perfumes I got for my birthday this year, or the stylish winter wear and home accessories, or the lots of books that made me rub my hands with glee, or the chocolates, flowers and wine. But what really cracked me up was a small packet that a much younger friend gifted me with, containing some headache balm, crepe bandages, vitamin tablets and general old-age stuff to help me ‘cope with my advancing years’.
And now, another NY Eve is upon me and the advancing years have done nothing to quell the dread of that old, haunting question: “so, what are you planning this year?” But this time I’m prepared. You see, I’m planning to stay on the couch, with a pile of cushions to prop me up; watch silly TV stars dancing around like wannabes on popular Bollywood tunes; right after ordering a big fat pizza and washing it down with a glass of wine or two. And at midnight I will call my family and promise to be a better daughter/sister/friend in 2010. Tell you what, I feel better already. And if any of you don't have much to do (yeah, as if!), feel free to drop in for some fermented grapes from vineyards far away and Italian imitation food. Have a happy NY Eve, folks!