Well, I never quite understood why all the fuss is created around New Year's eve. Not since I was like, 12. Those were some really fun times, at that age. Somehow, that excitement is amiss as we progressed through the teens and then onto the threshold of adulthood.
New Year celebrations for me used to be spending quality time with cousins. We used to live in this huge independent house, the kind that are quite rare these days. We are, in all, about ten cousin brothers and sisters ranging from 5-16 years of age. And this is how we celebrated New Year....
We begged our parents to give Rs.25-50 per head. Considering only the kids celebrated (even though the parents were invited), the parents gave money for the kids. But never quite hesistated to crash the party, unannounced. They were quite miserly in that regard and we blew our lids off when the food was insufficient (rare phenomenon).
Our Idea of Venue: The Terrace. I lived on the third floor with my parents and the terrace was just above our domain. Papa usually scared the kids off with his temper, but when he was sweet, the kids adored him. They were too scared to ask him if we could party there. I'd take a few cousins, who had the persuasive powers, to talk to papa. And after a few hesitations, we'd finally crack him into letting us party.
Our fabulous idea of a New Year feast: Top Ramen Noodles---Chicken flavour most of the time, although I don't quite enjoy it any more. One packet noodle per head sufficed most of us. And we had some good old potato chips to go with. Oh!! And Yeah. The boys cooked the noodles most of the time. Very satisfying meal indeed!!
Our Idea of the New Year Drink : Rasna--Everyone voted for the orange flavour, although my favourite was Cola. Short on resources, we didn't want to spend that much on Coke or Pepsi. Besides, we got more glasses of Rasna for a lesser price, and DAMN it was tasty. I usually took the responsibilty to prepare that cos that was the only thing I ever learnt to make at that age.
Our Idea of Fun: A stereo system, which often I volunteered to provide, without asking my parent's permission first. Although others had stereos too, none was ready to carry it up till 3 floors. I would heroically be ready to act as a saviour, then cower till the last minute to ask my mum if I could take the stereo. She obliged most of the time, not before telling me a zillion times to be careful. Papa, of course, didn't want me taking his prized possession, but mum convinced him. ALWAYS!!
Our Idea of Celebration: CAKE!!! Yes. That was something we insisted on, and that was the thing for which most of the money was allocated. The Cake had to be perfect and it was the boys who usually assumed the responsibility to getting it. Also, they were the eldest among our lot. They ensured we had cakes from the best possible place and the finest quality.
And So, we partied. The feast was ready, the drink was ready, the chips were half eaten while the feast was prepared, the stereo was ready to belt out songs, the terrace had been cleaned and everything was in order. The boys were always fashionably late, and the girls often arrived early and discussed the music that was to be played. The neighbours always seemed to copy us, and arrived on their own terrace (theirs was lower...I guess 2nd floor...and we got to sample what they feasted on. I must say, we liked our menu much better and were satisfied with our party preparations).
We would urge the boys to hurry up, so that we can start partying before the neighbours started their celebrations. And so, it was a common norm that things never got underway before 8.30 pm. We put on the music as loud as we could. Sometimes, the neighbours got bugged and got another deck to drown the sounds of our stereo. Our stereo speakers weren't the best, I admit. So what did we do???????
We shouted and sang and danced on our songs. I bet if there was a sudden, complete silence, we'd sound like a mix of goats and donkeys. What an amazing ruckus we created. Sometimes when that didn't work, we'd calmly shut our stereo, and dance to the tunes that the neighbours were playing. We'd thank them in the end for helping us save electricity and letting us have the pleasure of some wholesome entertainment. They had some really good songs.
Often the plan was to dance all night, eat at 12...dance a little after that, say till 1 or 2 o clock, and return to our respective parts of the house. Naturally, that was NEVER the way it happened. The 5-7 year olds were always hungry by 9. We'd watch them eat and then couldn't control our hunger. We finally ate by 11. The cake was always Cut at midnight and we retired to our slumber by 12.30.
Those were some days. That is how I still remember New Year. Coz, New Year always symbolised spending some fun and quality time with the ones I loved. That is how I always wanted New Year to be. A promise that may the coming year be filled with a lot of laughter and joy in the company of a loved on...carefree..without worry.
New Year since the turn of the millenium has been a lonely affair for most of us. The house that we were born in no longer stands in the lane of Chirag Ali Lane. The house that once drew envy of many around, turned out to be a sour dream for its own residents. I've learnt since that life isn't as rosy, and you don't always get what you wish for. I've learned to make peace with that and be content with what I have.
And What I have, among others, is the ever-lasting memory of the Many New Years spent in ways that seemed more perfect than any other thing I've done in my life. The images are still as vivid, like they are happening as I write. They were real moments and they are ones I'll take away with me.