“Come to a party with me,” ordered my friend, who’s just bought himself a Big Car. A ‘close friend’ of his was organising a do for her close friends. “I’ll pick you up — I don’t want you to land up in your Maruti 800.”
“Why not?” I asked angrily. “Because no one goes for South Delhi high-society parties in entry-level vehicles,” he shot back.
Subtle. But I got the hint. So I wore a heavy black overcoat to camouflage the ‘non-designer’ mess that lay beneath. “Your bag,” my friend suddenly gasped, as we stood at the door to The Party. “It’s terrible.” It was from Macy’s, I argued. New York. “Mass-produced, that’s what it is,” he said.
We entered the Party Scene. There were the usual props: clinking crystal, shining silver, ritzy rugs, whiffs of designer perfume, scented candles. Oh yes, orchids too, lots of them.
Then, there were the Close Friends: a man with an exaggerated swagger, a woman with an ultra-thin Shahtoosh shawl (the type that goes through a ring), another woman with heels so sharp and pointy that I started thinking about the movie where the killer uses a stiletto as his weapon of serial destruction; someone else in a little black dress and fishnet stockings — if the stockings were ever used as fishnet the fish would escape.
My friend’s Close Friend, the one with the shawl, rubbed her cheek against his, and blew a kiss into the night air warmed up by central heating. “Darling, what on earth are you wearing?” she leant back and looked at him.
I needed to escape. “Er, where’s the restroom?” Four pairs of eyes swivelled in direction; first, they bruised my face, then went down to my bag. I pushed it behind me, and wished it would stay there forever. “Upstairs, first door to the right.”
Upstairs, I SMS-ed a close friend: ‘Caught in drop dead boring party. Help!’
‘Get drunk’, her reply beeped in. Might as well. I walked to the wood cabinet where ‘drinks’ had been laid out. Pointy Heels was standing there. “There’s some good French wine.” There was Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, tongue twisters both. “Which do you want?”
I’d enrolled for French classes while in college but quit in two weeks’ time. I shouldn’t have. I had a brainwave. “I’ll have the white wine.” She poured me a goodly amount. I carried it back to the seating area. While the others sniffed, swirled and sipped wine, I gulped mine down in a jiffy. Pointy Heels was looking worried. “I’ll help myself,” I told her, already feeling rather light-headed as I went back for a second glass.
The living room had started resembling an international travel agency: everyone was talking about flying out of Asia. Exaggerated Swagger was going to Barcelona, and to the US from there. Shahtoosh Shawl was going to London (“I’m going there for the third time in two months. I hate the place, give me New York any day”).
Pointy Heels was going to Sydney (“I’ve been travelling non-stop the last two months, I’m soooo sick of it — travelling business class doesn’t help”). Little Black Dress looked a little too stoned to travel. I was on to my third glass. “I’m travelling too, you know,” I heard myself say, much to my horror. “I’m going to Calcutta.” Stunned silence. “Isn’t it filthy?” Someone asked. My parents live there, I said, among the garbage (even Leonard Cohen had said there were heroes in the seaweed).
Exaggerated Swagger was telling us how cultured—albeit filthy—Calcutta was. “I can’t stand Bombay,” he stamped his left foot petulantly. “The city stinks; whenever I drive down from the airport, the smell creeps into my car, even though the air-conditioning is really good.” “Ever since those autos, poor things, converted to LPG, I can actually breathe in Delhi,” said Pointy Heels. “But even so, I can’t bear to be here for more than two weeks at a stretch.”
I passed out at that point. I vaguely remember being carted back to the Big Car by two, maybe three, people, where I sank gratefully into the bucket seat. “What a fool you made of yourself,” my friend scolded me, as he got behind the wheel. “You don’t deserve to party with high-society folks: stick to your loser friends.”
My loser friends — God bless them. We should all have friends who are losers if this is what the winners are like.