The Party Night
The Party Night
12th March 1990.
It was nearing the end of our daily afternoon playtime when I suddenly noticed Deb’s father in the corner of the alley which was our playground. Deb was my play buddy and three years younger than me. I was in the eighth standard and we were all part of the same playgroup that would assemble every afternoon to play.
An immediate question came to mind, why is Deb’s father here? Parents showed up in the playground to rebuke for what we may have done wrong. It would range from lectures for the usage of just learned cuss words or not being enough inclusive with their child.
“Hey, can I please talk to all of you for a minute ?”, waved Amit uncle, Deb’s father.
We all flocked towards him and stood silent, anticipating a small rebuke session.
“I guess for most of you the annual exam results are out and must be enjoying a small break before the new session starts, right?”
I nodded along with others, while still trying to figure out how it will now convert to a moral lecture.
“Well, I have planned a small party at my place and wanted all of you to join. Please be at my place by 7 PM tomorrow and I am sure it will be a lot of fun”, Amit uncle said with a warm smiling face.
“Thank you uncle, but what is the occasion? “, I asked almost out of instinct since it was something least expected. We did get invites for occasional birthday parties but I guess this was my first invitation to such a surprise party.
“Nothing my son. Just like that.”, he said walking back towards his home.
I felt extremely happy and elated. So nice of him to throw a party out of no reason. Deb was from a well to do family, Amit uncle owned a car, so must be rich. I am sure they would arrange some nice food from premium restaurants. In their spacious apartment, there are lots of expensive but very interesting board games which will be a treat. I suddenly recalled that one of their rooms is airconditioned as well. What if we get to sit there? I had seen air conditioners in some public places but not within the premises of a home. But, that did not conclude the list of expectations. The true icing on the cake was something different. It was Amita, Deb’s elder sister now in the eleventh standard in a reputed convent school. She was extremely beautiful, well-groomed and I would just stare at her when she would walk across in the neighborhood. I
did aspire to be least an acquaintance but never even got eye contact. Maybe she was well aware of her charm and beauty and hence consciously would walk with heads down to avoid any interaction with strangers on the roads, even eye contact. Or maybe she was arrogant. I
kept speculating. I reckoned she might be just a little more welcoming on that evening, being the host to his brother’s playmates.
I was pretty restless all along the next morning looking at the clock every now and then; even making unnecessary calculations around when I should get ready, when I should step out or when I should ring their doorbell. They just stayed a few hundred meters away from our home
and middle-class teenage boy fashion was an unknown concept then.
As I was leaving home, my mother had given me a box of candies which she said to gift it to them and thank them for the invitation.
I reached on time. It was quite a crowd comprising not only our playgroup but also Deb’s school friends and friends of Amita as well. Their home was spacious to accommodate all of us, with guests forming their own groups of acquaintances. I saw Amita standing in the hall and she was looking stunning in a black gown and pearl necklace. Almost in a trance, I walked up to her handed over the candy box and with a smile said - “Hi, I am Deb’s friend this is something for you and Deb”. She took the box with a broad smile, gently patted on my shoulder saying -
“thank you so much brother, but this was not needed. Please enjoy the evening, you can find Deb is in the other room”.
It did not even register to me that she called me brother. It just did not. Rather, I was super happy to have just struck a conversation with her, to have exchanged a smile and thought anything which follows for the rest of the evening will be a bonus.
The rest of the party was indeed amazing, to begin with. There was a very generous choice of food and drinks, lots of board games, a nice sound system with music playing. Our playmates all came and it was a great time for the rest of the evening with music, food, chats, games and of course, occasional glance steals of Amita.
At around 10 PM, it was time to go back home. No one could have expected anything more. It was indeed very kind and generous of them to have arranged this much just to make us feel happy. Before we were about to leave, Amit uncle arrived in the hall and said -” Hey all, thanks
for coming today. But do you know what was the party today for?”
First, I was not used to being spoken with so much respect and dignity at that age. Secondly, apparently no one knew what the party was for. We all looked at each other and there was a momentary silence in the room. The music player had also stopped by then.
“Well, I have an announcement to make”, continued uncle. “Amita has failed miserably in her annuals this year and will have to repeat the year. This was just a celebration for that. This is not to ridicule her but somehow I do believe that this will work to make her more serious about her studies. I have tried other things in the past and nothing seems to work. She has been deteriorating academically for a long time and now the worst happened. Good night guys and thanks again for coming”.
I just stared at Amit uncle as he was saying all this. How could he? He did not seem angry or upset and did manage to say it all with a smiling face as if it was all for fun. I tried to look for Amita amidst the crowd but could not locate her. She must have run inside to hide from the
embarrassment. I felt if I could go inside and console her a bit, but could in no way do it. I just
dragged myself back home.
Several years later, I do carry the guilt of being literally a party to that party that night.