Unlike most people, the thought of being alone doesn’t push me into a downward spiral of depression and anxiety. In fact, much to my mum’s distress, I see no disgrace in dining alone on the bed, the daily tabloid on one corner and the TV remote on the other. This solitary lifestyle, now a carefully cultivated habit, was hatched as an early experiment in maturity and growing up, and bred in the petri dish of college. When the sole denominators of my new found adulthood were a healthy OCD for cleanliness and a self-inflicted habit of sleeping at dawn. So in my last year at college, I decided to spend Diwali alone and make a success of it. Hiding behind the completely believable alibi of mid-term exams, my fretting family in Rajasthan finally relented and agreed to let me be.
This is where I got cocky
Look at 'em, losers going home. As I watched fellow students book train tickets in advance, shop for trinkets to take home and not do their laundry, my smugness only grew. I didn’t need to run home to mommy and daddy at every given chance, I was big girl, I could handle it on my own, y’know.
With just a few days left for the main day, as the typical Delhi winter coolness filled the air, I knew I wasn’t going to be the sit-at-home-order-pizza-watch-a-rented-movie loser, no sir. My Diwali had to be planned precisely and executed accurately, just the way we did it at home. And the way at home is to scrub till the floors are so clean you can eat off them.
Cleaning till I dropped
One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Cut Her Finger. So I began with a duster in hand and scarf on face, brooming, mopping and getting rid of the cobwebs. Only stopping when the grime-covered, carbon coated ceiling fan, whirring at a sub-zero speed, caught my attention. Re-enacting a scene that would not seem out of place in a mental ward, I perched myself on a stool to clean the fan, without switching it off . I snatched my hand away but not before I cut my finger. And saw my clean floor spoiled by a bright stream of blood. That took care of the cleaning. (Well, thankfully I had finished most of it earlier.)
Rome can’t be built in a day but it sure can be bought nursing my wound all alone on Diwali day (it’s not only depressing but difficult too; ever tried bandaging your own finger?) I decided to pump my deflated sprits with a trip to the local market. I ended up buying overpriced Ganesh-Lakshmi idols, sugar pots, mud pots, diyas, candles, floating candles, a token utensil, sugarcane sticks, rice flakes and – not to forget – lots of sweets. Having quickly realised the truth behind “there’s no satisfaction like a bag full of shopping,” I had bought everything short of the local Ramlila. As evening approached, it was time to dip the diyas in oil and float the candles on water. But I almost skidded on the oil-slicked floor and my floating candles obstinately refused to float. That was the end of the candle story.
Now Go, Meet People
They always come back to laugh at you. Finally, I decided to attempt the ultimate test any lone merrymaker must go through. Face people. Glammed up in the spiffy looking silk salwar kameez borrowed from mom, I hopped on a cycle rickshaw to survey the crowds. I gave dazed smiles to strangers. But it wasn’t my day; month or year and my chunni suddenly started tugging tight at my throat. And it was not until I heard the tear that I still hear in my nightmares sometimes, that I realised the grave state of affairs. My chunni, that beautiful, blue, silver threaded piece of clothing had got caught in the grease-soaked wheels of the rickshaw and torn.
All by myself, hating it
Hope always rings twice. So here I was, home, hungry (of course, I hadn’t bothered with food), alone and it was already eight at night! I resigned myself to listening to firecrackers and identifying each one until dawn while Aapki Farmaish played on Vividh Bharti in the background (FM wouldn’t quite suit the mood). And then * drum rolls* the phone rang! A friend who stayed in Delhi was inviting me over to a dinner with his parents. I was barely listening. I rushed to my closet to get dressed. I wore a sari, of course!
How to not be alone even if you are
Don’t repeat my mistakes! Now only if I’d thought of these sure-shot tricks earlier:
* Amble over to your neighbour’s house with the pretext of wishing them. No one will have the heart to turn you away.
* Spread the news and appear miserable while doing so. Someone will invite you.
* Post an FB status about your solo state and ask around for company. You shall receive.
* Attend one of those club parties with an entry fee. You’ll be poorer but among people for sure!
From HT Brunch, October 23
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