My usual programme on New Year’s Eve is to fortify myself with a few pegs, go down to the building’s mandatory party, shake a few hands, mumble a few Happy New Years, smile glassily, grab the grub and make a quick getaway back to the flat, adroitly evading all invitations to dance. That is precisely what I did this New Year’s Eve too.
But next morning, New Year’s Day, was completely different. Every newspaper said that 2009 was the time to think positive. Look on the bright side, they exhorted eloquently. Overcome by all the brain-washing, my family suddenly realized I was too negative. So what if we have a crumbling economy, terrorist attacks, a plummeting stock market and job losses, we need to remember that the glass is not just half full, but half full with vodka. We must show some spirit. I must cultivate a positive attitude and enjoy myself, they urged.
The best way to do that, they decided, was to get a bunch of families from our building and drive down to a resort near the beach. We soon realized, however, that half of Mumbai was headed the same way, all eager to shake off the gloom of 2008 and welcome 2009 with defiant revelry. Naturally we were soon stuck bumper-to-bumper in traffic.
After a couple of hours of this slow torture, we finally arrived. The beach was so chock-full of revellers that it was impossible to get to the sea. Every square foot of space was taken up by families picnicking. Fat matrons and flatulent middle-aged men were playing postman’s knock or passing the parcel. All of them seemed to be brimful of a “Yes, we can” attitude. Yes we can play cricket on the beach, yes we can eat on the beach, yes we can ride horses on the beach, yes we can sell pav-bhaji on the beach is what they all seemed to be saying.
At the resort, horror of horrors, they had arranged some games for us. Let me describe some of the atrocities. In Paper Dance, you and a partner dance on a sheet of newspaper, making sure your feet don’t go out of the sheet. As the game progresses, the paper is folded again and again making it very difficult to dance on it. The guys soon lift their spouses in their arms or on their shoulders. Unfortunately, this was too much like hard physical labour to be much fun.
In “Bread and Butter” the guys are bread and the women are butter. It’s a kind of musical chairs where, as soon as the music stops, the emcee calls out various permutations and combinations of bread and butter. For instance butter, bread, butter, would mean a girl (butter) will sit first, a man (bread) on her lap and then another girl on the man’s knees — three people sit on one chair. If he called “Bread, butter, bread” a man would sit first, a girl on his knees and another man on hers. Like in musical chairs, chairs will be removed after every round. Oh what a romp we had.
I enjoyed myself grimly through every game, huffing and puffing as I danced on the paper, panting my way through the marble and spoon race and grinning inanely as I showed what colour underwear I wore to the Queen of Sheba. I will spare you the gory details of the other games, but I did win first prize in “Bombarding the City”, thereby acquiring a coconut scraper. All this was tiring work, but I stuck with it till the very end, reasoning that if Sharma of flat C-31 could enjoy himself, so could I.
On the long drive home, stuck in a massive traffic jam, I pondered whether I had the can-do spirit needed to survive so much enjoyment. Next time, I decided, I would get a hip flask to make the job easier.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint.