Yes, the drive was pleasant, along Marine Drive, and the evening was young. The skies were a riot of colours painted by a sun which had just set. My mood was sinking too. Oh God! Only if I could have somehow avoided attending this party.
Dare not invite the wrath of wifey! (the party was hosted by my brother-in-law). What was the occasion? Well, do the months of December and January require reasons to party? Besides, this was the big Party night of the year~ New Year's Eve. No, don't get me wrong~ am not a spoilsport at all. I do not grudge others having the time of their lives or drinking themselves silly either.
It is just that I happen to be on the other (the right?) side of fifty which has reset my preferences. Also, I have been a teetotaler for half of those fifty years now, yes, twenty five years. So hanging around forever holding a 'mocktail', as it is referred to, in my hand does not exactly thrill me. While the clock whizzes by for guzzlers it c r a w ls when I am not the one laughing out loud without reason. (Hey, if you like your drink, don't give me a dirty look. I enjoyed mine in my youth too.)
I kept myself in circulation and said Hi to the people that I had to. Aha! Why didn't I think of this before? The door to the balcony was so inviting. I quietly made my way past the action. The music sounded less threatening here. Below me, Mumbai was at my feet. Marine Drive (or The Queen's Necklace) facing the Arabian Sea offers one of the most majestic views of the city at any time of the day. At night, the necklace sparkles.
After a while I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around to see a familiar face. "Hi! Have I seen you before?" I asked her. She smiled and said 'Think, think..we have met not once but twice. You are the Writer, right? No wonder, this party must be suffocating for you!'
I immediately reassured her.'Hey, that's not the case. Just came out for a breather.'
'Not to worry', she giggled 'I am bored to death too. By the way, I am Shania. If I recall, you are Vijay, right? We met at Sunil Uncle's wedding and then here at the house warming do.'
'Wow! You amaze me. Let me guess~ you must be my Bro-in-law's cousin's wife's third cousin's niece's closest friend.'
'I like this. Even I am terrible at remembering just how am I related to whom!' Shania laughed. 'Where's your poison? Oh, so we are both aliens here! SOS~ Suffering Outcast Souls. Lemme think...look, these guys are barely into their second or third drinks. This is going to be one long haul. Many hours till midnight too. So, why not sneak out for some fresh air?'
I was hesitant 'If these guys figure out, they'll be annoyed.'
'You think they'd notice. Even if World War III were to break out, they'd be the last to know!'
She held my hand and led me to the entrance. We had to jostle our way through. The thump of the music was deafening.
As we emerged from the building, she waved her outstretched arms in the air. 'Ahh! to get away from that claustrophobic scene'
The entire road was abuzz with cars and youngsters turning it into their party zone.
I sighed and said 'It's only slightly better here.'
Shania hailed a Taxi and gave him directions. 'Just watch'
We alighted at a stretch where the action had thinned out. We sat on the parapet overlooking the sea and the waves crashing into the huge tetrapots. I could smell the salt in the air. Shania began shivering in the pleasant chill. I gave her my warm jacket. She swung around to sit facing the sea and I followed suit.
I watched her face, the glint of the bright city lights in her eyes.Leaning back, her hair being tossed around by the breeze, she admired the sky 'What a lovely, clear night. I love watching the stars. The moon's also so,so beautiful!'
I thought to myself that the bonding between us happened so quickly. She was less than half my age but that hardly mattered. We got along so well! I smiled.
She waved to a hawker and we feasted on salted peanuts.
'Care for some coffee?'
'Look, I'm not in a mood to go over to a coffee shop'
She waved to another street vendor 'Try this~ delicious South Indian Coffee!'
That it certainly was.
We sat there quietly just watching the city go crazy. All of a sudden things quietened down, many well lit rooms in the tall skyscrapers went dark..only to be followed by the blast of firecrackers, hoots, shouting and whistles. Oh yeah, it was midnight.
She shook my hand and wished me 'Happy New Year!!'
Wishing her in return, I ran my hand through her hair and said 'You are such a simple chirpy kid. That's a rare breed. Stay that way.'
Walking on the pavement, the city on one side and the sea to the left, we headed back to frenzy.