Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year and coffee wafts

New Year’s Eve.

The idea of fun in this country is very strange. These days everyone is high on some kind of dope. The junkies go ecstatic as the countdown to the New Year begins. I can’t fathom what has exactly led to this relatively new phenomenon but I’ve no doubt that the funny stuff they smoke – leading to the brouhaha -- is courtesy corporate media. India, if I may add, is in a transition phase, going from a staid, slow country to a consumerist, globalizing one -- hence a fertile territory for any takeover [cultural, economical and physical]. Easily put, we we are up for grabs.

A smart but notorious nexus controls our hearts and minds: Market forces-corporate media-ad gang. As soon as they sniff an occasion they up the ante. Frenzied TV reporters – with IQs ranging between 15 and 30 -- hit the marketplace with amazing alarcity and start shouting into their dirty microphones [not metaphorically, the mikes are grimy really]: New Year is coming. New Year is coming!

Basically ordinary people in this country are too busy trying to eke a basic standard of living, not withstanding India's impressive economic growth rates. Returning home completely petered-out, there is an idiot box awaiting them. It is – trust my word on this -- a constant bombardment of standard rubbish: Are you going out? What are your plans tonight? Everyone is offered two choices: either come out and have ‘fun’ [party hard, that is the exact expression used] or stay back and feel deprived and wanting. So everyone is compelled to make up his/her mind: ASAP. Urgently, because you need to grandstand next morning in the workplace/college.

Again there are two choices. Either go to one of the happening places and allow yourself to be fleeced. It could be a disc, pub or a party where everyone and his uncle has already descended, drunk, behaving plain weird. Or go to a public place, park, an open air theater, mall or a concert and meet the funniest human creatures you’ll ever bump across in your life. Either ways, every glade of earth is crowded, cacophonous and commonplace on New Year’s. It gets colorless because there is too much of humanity looking for 'fun' and most of it is spiritless.

Let me be honest here: I did go out on the New Year’s. Pals insisted. Perhaps the deprivation albatross hung around our necks. We decided to go to the heart of the city: Connaught Place. It is Delhi’s lifeline and was considered the most fashionable arcade in North India before malls sprung up everywhere. But we found all exits and entrances to CP, as Connaught place is lovingly called, sealed. When an entire armada wants to assemble in one small square, what options do the cops have? We nonetheless managed to sneak in.

It was the most amusing sight in my life. The great march of lemmings. Just too many of them. Blaring, throwing up, walking aimlessly. Going to nowhere in particular. Seeking deliverence, perhaps. Some looked up in the sky, searching for New Year. I was instantly put off. I winked to my chaps. We left the mobbed venue.

There was no Plan B but luckily, I spotted a cosy cafe'. So at the out start of 2008, I sat amidst cappuccino wafts, cracking jokes with friends. Impromptu moments are so much fun. The ambience was just fine. But in the middle of our chatter, my attention went to a stocky, middle aged, bearded, tall man, clad in a black Pathani dress, walking into the café. I looked at my friends. I knew they were all thinking what I was contemplating. Could he be a suicide bomber? What else do you make of a man 50+, dark, somber, religious-looking, bearded, wrapped in a shawl, in a café at mid-night?

Undeterred we cracked more jokes, some on the poor man. My chums often accuse me of being cavillous. I was merciless, as usual. I went on: Imagine he explodes, and we all die, just like Benazir’s supporters. We laughed out loud but a part of me was sad too. Isn’t it so paradoxical: The fear-factor, the stereotyping, the terror phobia? In the end, the gentlemen sipped his New Year coffee and nothing went off.

We drove back at half past one. Expensive cars lined outside many venues. The golf club parking was chock-a-block. Nothing much. Must be a scantily clad dancer, in the January chill, jiving to a large, loud crowd of liqueur smelling Delhiites, I reckoned. Good way to greet the New Year. Means you are not deprived. Also means you can splurge in the night and go home and sleep for the whole day.

I’ve always believed that it is much more fun to regale in the company of your loved one’s and together welcome new dawns over hope, laughter, familiarity and love.

Happy New Year