So what are you doing on 31st night?

I never did anything on New Year's Eve when I was at Calcutta. I watched TV at home through college and even when I was twenty plus and working. Curfew. Lack of late night transport. The quintessential Bengali bhalo chhele (good boy) as defined by his mother.

My first New Year's Eve in Mumbai was a revelation. I celebrated it on the lawns of Juhu Hotel. I don't know if I was more kicked at being out at that late hour. Or at being able to wear just a Allen Solly Friday Dressing cotton shirt and trousers outdoors. Not the sweater plus 'coat' plus muffler plus Monkey Cap plus 'boots' which made up the gear of the Bengali Alpha male in Calcutta's temperate winters.

It didn't matter that I worked in a sweat shop. That I had to go to office on the First even though it was a holiday. That I had to leave the festivities at midnight because I had to go to work while my friends made plans to go to Maadh Island . What mattered was that I was out on New Year's Eve! That I had grown up.

I was back at Calcutta next year after my training at Mumbai. I was no longer a student. But still at home on NYE. Little wonder that I scurried back to Mumbai in a few months. And stayed put since.

Since then there was the frenetic search for passes/ or things to do on NYE. This saw me at Madness, Khar, one year with fellow immigrants searching for succour in spirits. And then at the Navy Club grounds at Colaba with an office group the next year - blazers, ties, shoes as the dress code.

An office romance followed. And thus came about an out of town trip on NYE to Alibag. A hallowed hotel called (eeks) Sai Inn. The most memorable part of the trip was walking into a huge office group at the Apollo Pier. They were heading to Alibag too. We turned redder than Rudolph the Reindeer's nose as we tried to pretend that we were hanging around idly. Sab Golmal hain as they say in Bollywood. We were not officially a pair yet.

We got hitched that year and no more Hrishikesh Mukherjee tableaus happened after that. Eating out and socialising were at a premium for the two of us. Mumbai is tough on the finances of newlyweds after all.

We accumulated all our 'going out money' for that one plush bash in the year. Even if it cost as much as six to seven outings through the rest of the year.

I would scour the papers to find out the best deals. Starters and More, Marine Plaza with its many sections, the Taj Asian thingie at NCPA, Golden Gate Bandra, all whizzed by in a blur. Loud music. Congested dance floors recreating the Mumbai local train experience.Traffic related panic attacks about whether we would reach our destination before the stroke of midnight. 'Unlimited' drinks which meant that the 'unlimited' food remained untouched. I was serious about having fun.

Year after year I continued to be manic about bringing in the New Year with K gamely playing along. Not always silently.

Then we did something different. We went to a sit down dinner at Zenzi. There were no 'unlimited' drinks. And the food wasn't a buffet trough. An elegant seven course meal under the starry sky. Each dish which came out was a petite princess, pretty and elegant. I began to see the argument in favour of fine dining over binge eating. The Knife was beginning to take a more genteel shape.

We tried Zenzi again the next year. Couldn't get reservations. We walked back morosely till I had a Eureka moment and we picked up a Spaghetti Carbonara and something with penne for K from Pizzeria at JATC. We had a drink at home with this and brought in the New Year with When Harry Met Sally which we picked up from the DVD rental while walking home.

I was grown up enough to admit that the missus was right. That this was one of our nicest New Year Eve's. And cheapest too.

The 'party like there is not tomorrow' ritual came to an end. As did spending NYE by ourselves last year.

As you can see we eat out quite often now. So the desperation of yore to forget constraints and celebrate on this one evening is gone. And this year saw us spend a lot of lovely evenings with friends at our place, us at their places and all together eating out. The good cheer spread through the year. Once again, gone was the need to paarrrty hard for at least one day in a year.

I don't know what we'll do the day after (31st). I doubt if we will be in a smokey place, packed with people, thousands of Rupees short.

Is this old age? Is this wisdom? Or maybe I am back to being a bhhalo chhele?


Anonymous said…
Interesting. Quite my case. During my college days I remained the 'bhalo meye'. Then made it compulsory to party on Christmas and New years eve at hotels/clubs. Then after some years, choose only private parties. And after marriage - sit at home, watch tv/movie and booze. Lol..but I love it this way now. Age maybe??? Lol...
Anonymous said…
O...bolte bhule gechilam..

Have a great year ahead!! :-)
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Hey Arundhati...I think those of us who grew up in Cal in the eighties and nineties over compensate on fun...we have such a lot of catching up to do after all :)

Have a great year ahead
mentalie said…
tsk tsk, its middle age. my 19 year old cousin just pointed this out to me when she and i were arguing about the relative merits of going partying vs. hanging with the cats this NYE. she says partying every day of the year only ups the ante for the NY BLAST. i remember feeling the same once...
Ushnish Ghosh said…
Dear Kalayan
1st time will be at home on new year in 21st century..Like the nineties we will be having family gathering with BBQ, I am busy preparing chicken thighs, Mutton ( goat) and fish pieces will be marinated in diff secrete sauce !!
Well from Mid 60s ( when I was in Jadavpur univ) to mid 80s ( until I was in Cal), it was always at park street without fail.
I will take the usual secrete oaths of new year like smoking and drinking will be increased by 20 and 25 % respectively, will never eat 2 legged animal and only 4 legged ones etc unfortunately could not keep the promises.

Happy New year and ULLASH!!( I had 1st time introduced Ullash in place of cheers at Amber bar)
Pinku said…

Happy new year....which ever way you end up celebrating as long as you do that and have K along with you..
Scarlett said…
It's neither old age nor going back to being a bhalo chele. It is indeed wisdom...and the capability to discern what's worth it & what isn't.

I grew up in a small town where there weren't any New Year's Eve parties that you could buy passes to, and parents didn't see the big deal about staying awake till midnight to usher in the New Year either. So my New Year's eves would be spent watching the sad New Year shows on television, Doordarshan initially until we got Cable TV.

Then I moved to Bombay where I partied the first couple of years, then realized New Year's parties were so not worth'd blow up a couple of grands easily for a pass, and so not get your money's worth! The parties would run out of food, drunk people would fall on you, step on your toes, drop beer all over you. Even throw up on your feet if you were really unlucky! So since then New Year's eves have been spent either at a house party at a friend's place, or over drinks, food & a movie with a handful of friends at my/friend's place. And I feel that's such a better way to spend New Years!
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Hey Mentalie, remember Christmas? Tell your cuz that we old timers are not that lame. The forty pluses are hee hee

Hi Ushnishda, that sounds like a grand barbecue. Specially in Dillir sheeth. The breedho shadhu will be there I hope.

I am afraid that I never manged the Park Street scene. My younger brother has it much easy as maternal controls relaxed after me

Loved your description of 4 legs good versus 2 legs bad. Rolling on the floor. Chaaliye jaan Bangali :)

Hey Pinku, Amen to that and a happy and enchanted New Year to you too :)

Scarlett, you have summed it up wonderfully. As I always maintained, wisdom goes well beyond years in your case young lady ;)

I know I will ruffle many feathers if I campare Calcutta with a 'small town'. But there is this desperate urge to make up for all those cloistered years once you get out.

And then the penny drops.

Have a great time at Delhi
Scarlett said…
@The Knife - Girls get wiser earlier than boys, you know? But thanks for the compliment. And you can compare Cal to a small town all you like, I won't take offense! LOL :)
Miri said…
I think we all go through this - over the past 5 years we had settled down to spending New Year's eve with friends, alternating between a couple of homes.
Last year we eschewed going out to one of these "hotel bashes" albeit one which was a "by invitation" bash only limited to a large group of friends and friends of friends.Instead we spent a great evening at home with some dear friends who had flown down from Chennai that evening.
This year we didn't have any plans whatsover - lucky us, since DH fell prey to swine flu!!! Lo- the quietest dinner in many decades - but what a wonderful one it was!

Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Scarlett...I am still getting death threats for saying that the men in Cal wear monkey caps... from a woman who has moved out herself you can really spot the sliver lining. Glad you guys had a great time. Hope DH is charged up by the goulash that you made