A few months back, a cousin doing her Masters in the US was visiting and the rest of the local cousins decided to do meet up for a beer or two. I got back home, a tad tipsy, and was asked where I had been. Since it was a “family” event, I said the cousins met up.
“Was it a party?” asked my Dad.
“I don’t know. We met up.” I said truthfully.
“But was it a party?” he asked again.
“What’s a party?” I asked. It did not go anywhere from there due to lack of a clear definition.
A Party. A party. A party. Repeat a word too many times and it loses all meaning and becomes a meaningless sum of its constituent syllables. All my life the word’s been like that.
It evokes memories of people standing around talking, usually with one hand in a pocket and the other holding a drink. As the oatmeal would say, it’d be about one guy talking about how he did not get conned by some rip-off. “And then he said…. and I said… and then he said… I said… Hahaha”. More than anything, it conveniently solves the problem of what to do with one’s hands when talking.
The ones I have been to have generally been birthday parties. The adults’ ones were of people I did not know and, now realise, people I would definitely not have managed to get to know, even with time, or with all the alcohol that flowed. Yes, there were a few as a student when I sat around with people I knew. And those with the cricket team. It wasn’t as terrifying, but there are other terrors am talking about.
For the kids’ it was the neighbours’ ones attended as a late teen. To make it easy, my parents would pack off a steel plate lying unopened from some other gift. The kid would make a show of opening all gifts right there and go “Thoo! Thatte!”, disappointed about not getting any cool toys. I remembered not to put any names on the package from then on.
“Where do you party?” one extremely annoying colleague asked me standing in the cubicle aisle a long time back. All eyes turned towards me, and I figured I had to come up with a cool answer and save my name. The topic on discussion had been some bugs he had filed and I don’t know why a question of parties and their becoming verbs came up, but there was a way of asking that question that made me feel obligated, and pressurised.
I looked all around, to confirm that all eyes were boring on me, waved a finger around my head and said “All over” and not knowing if that was the right answer to the question, given that I had no idea what the question was, I beat a retreat the way one does without moving from where one was. It seemed to have satisfied him, having gotten the exact lame answer he was looking for. All of a sudden, another colleague got interested and they started talking about “X place throws some awesome parties, which are so difficult to get into”. There were enough phrases being used repeatedly for me to recognise that this was a ritual which required these phrases to be repeated – also known as clichés – to make sure you’re part of this clique.
Around this time TOI had launched the Bangalore Times and its 3rd page was all about people standing around and their names. I had no clue who they were and why I should know about them. But I religiously went over their names and the usual cliché verbs that went with them. “X and Y partying hard” one said, “A and B chilling by the pool” said another, with no sign of any pool around. “Who are all these people?” asked my dad one day. “How am I supposed to know!”.
Then there was the movie called “Page 3” which did a clichéd take on different kinds of personalities. It took me a few years to make a logical leap between that movie and the number of the page where BT put all these photos. By that time I had given up going through all these pages, and restricted myself to Page 2’s comic strips. How you are in your 30s and later is always decided by how you are in your 20s, just that you don’t know that and go around trying to be everyone else.
I still could not figure out a whole lot. Of course, these things made a lot of news. Like when the HC or the Govt passed an order that there would be no dancing in parties or some such. And then you got this idea that people would be dancing around in these places like in the movies. And wanted to stay as far away as possible. There was enough hue and cry, and more clichés were added to the mix and soon the order was reversed that it was allowed but only till some PM or small AM and some semblance of sanity restored.
I still read “X was partying hard” and an image of X with a party hat, eyes closed, going “yay!” silently, and one hand raised and waving comes to mind. It fits into the latest “DID YOU HAVE FUN?! BUT DID YOU HAVE FUN?!” trend of putting a lot of pressure on most pastimes.
Advantage of being in your 30s is that you know where you stand on most things, and what things will interest you or not. Yes, there will be occasional attempts to “get out of the comfort zone” and all that, but most importantly you know that it’s not a crime to not be interested in certain things, or be a certain way. Most likely the question of what is a Party and what people do there, and if I’ll fit in, is not likely to get resolved, ever. And I guess am more than happy to keep it that way. Little mercies.