Because Veena wants to know what could preoccupy me more than the woes of iBankers
I am happy to report that my son has reached the age when he no longer needs me around at birthday parties. I am sorry to report he counts among his classmates folks who live in small palaces and it would be a crime not to sit through three hours of a birthday party and check out what happens.
What follows is entirely my fault. Waste no sympathy on me, Falsie. (And nobody mention tea, please).
This place we're going to is in a lane that's named after the scion of the family whose great-granddaughter we're going to hand over a gift to. This is the first time I'm going, so I only have my mother's directions to help me along.
"Turn into the lane after the petrol pump. It's the first house on the right."
I turn into the lane. There are tall buildings a mouldy wall but nothing that looks like a house. Then there are balloons. Behind the balloons, a large circular driveway. A fountain perched atop a few statues of semi-clad women. Other statues placed casually here and there. On our right is the 'house': sweeping steps, whitewashed building like the ones in paint ads, with old-fashioned green trim on slatted windows.
"Where can I park," I ask my host.
"Oh, anywhere," he says, with a generous wave of the hand.
There's a music system playing 'Hips Don't Lie'. This party is going to be fun.
My son runs off to play and I join a bunch of mothers. Now, since my son goes to school by the bus, I don't know what these mothers look like, much less know their names or anything about them. But I join them and listen.
While a troop of women - maids by their slightly worn clothes and their dupattas tied around their waists like girls going to bharatanatyam classes - ply us with Frooties and chips and samosas, the women talk school and check out attire. I hide my very torn fingers from general view. These women are, if not desperately well-groomed, at least dressed as if they've made an effort.
Meanwhile, the kids are running wild. There's plenty of place: a seesaw, a slide and a couple of swings, and plenty of trees and low walls.
Someone wants to know - she asks a Bong, naturally - where one can find Dhakai saris in Hyderabad. I'm all admiration for this lady. She's dressed in back, has on a matching pair of dark glasses (which means black, let me specify, with white stripes on the handle or whatever), and in the space of one minute has spoken in Hyderabadi Hindi, Telugu and Bengali.
Someone organises the kids and starts a game. They are all given paper and pencil and are given a picture. They have to find 13 words in the picture that have a double-'o'. "Like this is a football," the grandmother says.
Mother Alert! Some of the moms rush to their kids and help them out in loud whispers. After time's up, one or two (mothers) are still copying down words from other kids' sheets. My son has written the word spooky. Now, that's clearly disallowed, because it's not an object in the picture, which is what he was supposed to find. "Where's Spooky?" one mother asks me. I shrug.
The next game is rather fun. The kids are given a piece of paper with an animal's name on it and they have to find other kids in 'their' family by making a noise the animal commonly makes. No one is interested in finding anyone else, but everyone has a good time mooing and bleating and making the bloody kind of racket they're not allowed to at home.
Someone asks, over the noise, whether I also have a problem with my son not wanting to write. "I don't know," I say. I'm a careless mother like that.
"I'm looking for a cursive writing class for my daughter. Can you believe they haven't started teaching them cursive writing yet?!" The conversation moves to all the available extra-curricular activities these kids do: theatre, tennis, abacus classes and kathak, apparently, are all good.
A little later, once the animals have found their families, a game of musical chairs begins. This is really interesting to watch. I didn't realise until today what a conservative game it was. These eight year old kids already know caution: as the music starts, instead of running along they are walking cautiously, moving the chairs just a little bit so they can slip through the gap to the chair that faces the other way, if the music should happen to stop. They linger near chairs, listen to the beat and make intelligent guesses based on how long the music played one time and how long they thought it would be before it stopped the next time. Very illuminating.
Lunch - after the cake was cut - was pani puri, more samosas and veg manchurian and noodles. The maids had arranged themselves behind a long table and were serving everyone. As I sat some way away, I noticed one of them slide gracefully into a faint and fall under the table. A lid went clattering. Someone brought her some water. Others hovered. She continued to sit under the table for a good long while, covering her face with her hands. A girl behind me said 'fuck' and suddenly started talking in whispers.
In a while, the return gifts came out.
It wasn't until I was home, though, that all those samosas and pani puris started waging war in my stomach.
There's another invitation for a birthday party tucked into my bag somewhere. It's in Nallakunta (the party; not my bag). I am so not going.