-By Dhruv Atreja, Batch of 2023
Battleground: Shaadi (arranged, inevitably)
“I don’t know who you are, I don’t know what you want but if you have grey hair, I will find you and I will (have to) touch your feet”
The faces start to amalgamate more with each step, seeming to be an unflagging barrage upon my introverted self. The battlefield has a cold malevolent air to it. I walk through the excessively flamboyant setup (which is basically always red-golden-white), avoiding eye-contact, thinking this would ward off unnecessary small talk. As you can see, I’m more of a dreamer than a realist.
I pass by a flock of snipers (plump middle-aged housewives), judging each individual within their radius.
I see their faces of disgust for the below-average student, and their holier-than-thou scorn for the struggling entrepreneur. They declare the palest girl to be the prettiest (of course). I see them ignorantly praising the ‘IITian’, who they think is going to land a 1 crore package for sure. He’s pursuing Civil Engineering at IIT Jammu; I try telling them that I had a much better rank but I chose NSUT. “Never heard of it”, they say pityingly.
The survival skills I have learned over the years come in handy. While talking about my college, I casually drop the term sex-ratio. While this is a harmless weapon for most, dropping the S-bomb, in whatever context, always proves effective in these battalions. The aunties get uncomfortable and change the topic. I seize my chance and run for cover, only to enter a minefield.
The fog has rolled in, throwing me into despair, and shadowy figures seem to be moving closer. The air is hazy, a red mist– as if made of blood– meeting the sinful dark sky. Oh! The fog machine! I realise that I have wandered dangerously close to the dance stage. At any moment, a drunk uncle can reach for me and force me to dance – which is one of the most underrated human rights violation in my opinion. And there I go, trying to suppress all the cringe alarms going off in my brain which is counting down the seconds till it’s socially acceptable to leave, moving my body in the most awkward way possible, making a buffoon of myself in the process. I wonder if they dance so that other people feel obliged to dance in their children’s marriage. I wonder if this is a loop or a recursion.
Literally any festival
“Festivals may come and festivals may go, but irrational formalities go on forever”, I think as we receive yet another box of son-papdi/gujia/burfi. All the extroverts of my colony have gathered to make one giant chaotic blob of protoplasm.
“The entropy of the universe is constantly increasing” – yeah I kid you not, Clausius.
The uncles are chugging their drinks like there’s no tomorrow and the womenfolk are obviously making and serving snacks. Child labour law, why is that even a thing? Chintu places a plate of conventional snacks at the table. It’s raining forwards on WhatsApp. I still don’t know who actually cares about what’s written in those. It’s read like the midsection of a long answer in an examination.
Amidst the mad swarm of humanity called Delhi traffic, I see a helmet-less middle-aged man precariously carrying a box of lights and crackers on his two-wheeler, almost about to bump into my cab. I realize I’m rushing to go somewhere I don’t want to be. Hell, it would still be tolerable if I was allowed to exile to a room and be on my own.
But I’m asked to participate more since all introverts are obviously poltroons. No, I don’t like Holi, and saying “Bura na mano” won’t change that.
If I have to wake up to Amitabh Bachchan singing ‘Rang Barse’ one more Holi, I will… do nothing. But it doesn’t change the fact that it is a tradition that has been done to death. I admit ‘Do me a favour let’s play Holi’ is hardly a better alternative, but I would kind of like it…. no, I’d be eternally obliged rather, if you did not blare that song on your max-bass loudspeakers early in the morning. But of course, noise pollution is a myth, just like air pollution, water pollution and any such balderdash.
But would it really be a festival if people didn’t take too much liberty in its name? It turns out, Holi is a day to vent all the ill-will against someone you have had problems with. Go throw water balloons at some women to eve tease them, and it won’t be seen as an act of molestation, because of ‘Bura na mano Holi hai!’
At the time of Diwali, I think Lakshmi is even worse affected than me. Not only does she have an endless list of houses to visit in a single night, but she also needs to look out for possible thefts that may result in a sudden decline in her fan following. The demands her followers put forth range from LCD TVs to things nobody can provide them with.
The girls are busy clicking pictures with the rangolis/Holi aftermath of their faces, with a formal license to participate in the let’s-see-who-dresses-better-this-time contest. The guys are busy either blowing things up, throwing water balloons at them or covering them with grease.
Henceforth I end my rant; some unannounced guests have come to make me conform to the exasperating “Atithi Devo Bhava”, the Joker’s words ringing in my ears: “Put on a happy face”. But at least now you know “how I got these scars”: SANSCARS!