‘Tis the season to be jolly; Santa may or may not have made it through every Indian chimney but going by the photos and stories posted on social media, a Christmas tree sure made it to every household.
With every passing year, the festival week that begins with X’mas and ends with the new year seems to get bigger, making people want a piece of the pie or suffer from FOMO otherwise. We are bang in the middle of that week and the party invites have slowly but surely started to trickle in. But as quite a few of us know, it could be the best of times or the worst of times.
For yours truly, it has been a long series of unfortunate times. I have almost never managed to enjoy this highly anticipated week, for reasons more than one.
Till my teenage years, Christmas was solely about finding a new story book under my pillow, gifted by Santa, a tradition I deeply cherished. We also visited the local church but never got the permission to stay out till midnight, so the best we did was eat the leftover plum cake and watch the dance and song events televised for families like us.
It was so boring that the only thing that kept us awake was the will to stay up till 12, a fascinating freedom we weren’t offered often.
As a young adult, the invites to house parties started pouring in. An extrovert on most days, my attendance was hoped for by friends, if only to fill the position of a chatterbox, that one pal who is always talking, making up for any awkward silences. I did attend quite a few of these, having no skeptical bone in my body back then.
It was liberating to go to a friend’s house which was devoid of adults, to sip cheap booze from someone else’s plastic cup, to ‘go Dutch’ on the plates of roadside noodles bought from the thela wala under the house.
But these were the parties where we also had our first brushes with romance.
Someone met someone there for the first time, a common friend introduced two people, friends pushed you and a new guy to the corner of the balcony to get to know each other. And this is where things went wrong. Typically, expectations of the boy never matched the girl’s and someone left the party crying. For me, the breaking point came when a guy I had just begun to like puked on my shoe right around the time two guys beside us started a fist fight over ‘Priyanka meri bandi hai, teri nahi.’
By the next few years, the aspirations (or stress) had only grown and getting inside the posh pubs, preferably on a couple entry had become the new dream.
Sure there were ‘stag’ friends too, always lamenting on being single ergo paying more to get into these coveted ‘31st night extravaganzas’. The pub parties also disappointed like everything else.
Freshly got salaries could get us entry to expensive venues, it couldn’t save us from the DJ who played two good numbers before moving on to two hours of only Punjabi numbers or men next to us breaking into the catchphrase of Sukhbir’s one and only hit song.
Sure, the drinks were unlimited but only if you could save your toe from getting stubbed or succeeding in shouting out your order to the bartender next to the hundreds who did the same.
By the time the studs and girls of South Delhi were screaming the countdown to the upcoming year, chances were a total stranger had grabbed and hugged you by mistake. Honestly, that was it for me.
I tried hard to remain home the next year on, appeasing my mother who always insisted I spend the last evening of the year with family, watching television and eating the good ol’ fish curry and rice. But the FOMO made me get to some party or other anyway.
It never turned out right though; the guy whose get-together I missed would stop talking to me from the next day and the girl whose party I did attend would start avoiding me having seen me at my hyper best four vodka shots down.
I went to one such party after a break up and obviously my fashion choices didn’t align with the rest – I wore a red jumper and jeans and could feel the eyes of everyone on me, until I realised my ex was there too. Suffice to say it wasn’t a Christmas miracle and we got back together only to break up the very next day, George Michael being our patron saint of lost causes.
Today, these parties are all about making some great memories for Instagram.
Beautifully curated food pictures align themselves with beautifully curated people singing a Prateek Kuhad song or carefully clinking wine glasses with a back and forth effect. The ruckus of our young adulthood has made way for subtle sophistication that speaks loudly through social media accounts. The Bollywood nights and gaudy fashion formals have turned into #aboutlastnight , #friendslikefamily and #ootd posts, with little to no meaning in the entire content of the evening.
Year-end parties have always been about being there or being square, of being merry without overthinking it. Then what has really changed? For someone who has always dreaded the high expectation of this last week versus the reality of it, the last few years have been therapeutic; I have learnt saying no to the stuff that thrive on social anxiety.
I watch my favourite shows on streaming portals, I order in good food or I meet a friend or two for a hearty lunch. And when the first sun of the year rises, I am doing alright. Just about the amount of expectations I can handle.
For the rest, there is always vodka and Punjabi songs to make the most of it.
(Runa Mukherjee Parikh is an independent journalist with several national and international media houses like The Wire, Bust and The Swaddle. She previously reported for the Times of India. She is the author of the book 'Your Truth, My Truth (https://www.amazon.in/dp/B076NXZFX8)'. You can follow her at @tweetruna.)