101

NYE101 – Journey to the centre of the Party.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. However, neither this picture nor anyone in it is capable of anything close to forming meaningful words, so here are a thousand to make up for it.

You’re not a party person. Loud music, flashy lights and drunk dancing are worlds away from your comfort zone. However, refusing when someone offers to go to a pub with “Nah, I’ve tried it. Not my scene.” is just less fuss than having to stand there and listen to the other person go on and on about how much fun everything is and how it’s criminally wrong to deny something without trying it out at all. Also, your very generous friend is covering your expenses, so if you want to do something just once in your lifetime, there’s no better time than when it’s free. 

Expensive. Hesitant. Unlimited Buffet(?!)

New Year’s Eve. 10:30pm: After hours of searching and weeding out parties that either didn’t allow walk-in entry for stags or were too expensive or were sold out, you’re finally at your destination – a cozy restobar at a mall. Good enough for a first-timer.  You peer into the entrance as your friends are busy talking to the person-in-charge. Most of the people are rested on the tables lined against the walls, a few sitting by the bar and even fewer on the dance floor. The manager ties a bright yellow band around your wrist and ushers you in. The stench of cocktails and smoked meat hangs thick in the air as you quickly resort to grabbing a plate for the buffet. The lights come on as a voice announces that the technical difficulties are almost taken of. So there’s a DJ table on the top. People slowly gravitate towards the dance floor as more glowing lights flash on. The room takes on a ‘Pandora’ vibe as everywhere someone is holding a glowstick or a hat or a glow-band emitting soft hue of green and blue. You quickly snap a couple of pictures and slip your phone into your pocket as there’s no telling when someone will knock it out of your hands. The DJ finally kicks in and the room fills with deafening music and hoots and whistles. The spotlights begin to flash and spin. The flashing of light and beating of music being out of sync makes your head fuzzy. You turn away from this epileptic graveyard and focus on the food.

Turns out drunk people eat a lot. The restaurant can barely replace cleaner plates, never mind the food. The only item not empty on the table is the bowl of fries, so you settle down with a plate full of just fries. Your friends quickly follow and it is almost sad. Four people in a corner with plates full of salty fries in a bar filled with dancing people. You walk across the place from one corner to the other just so nobody sees you sitting in a corner like a loser. Why won’t this year end already? 

Sunken. Sullen. Empty.

11:00pm: Your friends drag you to the dance floor because “one-dish-every-thirty-minutes” is not how an unlimited buffet is supposed to be had. You stick to one edge of the platform and look around. People surround you in various stages of inebriation. There are faces of concerned men trying to take care of their drunk women, Women keeping their drunk boyfriends in check from getting too rowdy, people passing out on the floor, by the bar, on the buffet table. A DJ trying to keep the crowd moving, pausing only to make an announcement regarding broken glass in the middle of the party. Nobody could even hear it break.  An indifferent crew working constantly to clean up the mess, pick up the broken glasses and keep the food and drinks flowing. You have your dancers, the lurkers, the eaters and those who seem completely lost inside their own heads. You recognise a few of them from movies and TV – directors and actresses, a stark contrast from the selves they portray in rehearsed interviews and cameo appearances. The place is starting to get considerably more crowded than when you came in, but somehow the music seems to have gotten quieter. Or, your eardrums are failing, who knows. 

All the faces soon merge and mesh into one – sullen eyes that do not really see, dragged out smiles that do not really feel. You realise you are much deeper from the edge now, bodies bumping softly into you from every side, like a tide of floating corpses pushing you around. The music picks up and more people join to dance, if you can call it that. You’ve seen dance in all its grace and perfectly synchronised and this looks nothing close to any of it. This is just motion – jumping, swaying, writhing. The DJ calls everyone to attention and throws handfuls of glowsticks to the crowd and you attempt to catch a few, the first act you’ve partaken in with the crowd. A man stumbles and falls onto a woman trying to catch one and stammers an apology with the ever-present smile. He is immediately pushed back by none other than our director whose expression immediately turns from anger to one of that mocking his smile. You feel a surge of adrenaline. Are they going to fight? Oh God, please let there be a fight! The woman immediately pulls Mr.Director away and consoles him, the other guy has already been swept away by the tide long ago. Sigh. You carry on watching the woman asking him to let it go, and then try to get back to dancing with him, with her hands extended to his shoulders. He shrugs her away unceremoniously and walks towards the bar. Her hands still extended in air, find the shoulders of another guy and she carries on dancing. Wow, okay. Her face has no recognition of this stranger, the ever-present smile is stuck wide on both their faces. Has she no clue it’s a different person? The director returns with a bottle of beer and nudges the stranger away and takes his place. What is this, Human Tetris? She still has no clue and carries on grinding. She has no clue. None of them has any clue. 

Bliss. Revelation. Breathe. 

The worst nightmare of an introvert is the feeling of being watched. Whenever you are not in “your circle” ( it can be a place, a certain group of people or a certain variety of clothes – what’s sometimes too broadly called the “comfort zone”), you have this nagging feeling that everyone is looking at you, laughing, judging, like a thousand spotlights following you around forever. This makes you conscious of your every move, your muscles tense up and your movements become clumsy and your words stammer. Fear of humiliation leads to more humiliation. Intelligent design, my ass. However, at that moment, looking around, you realise there is no one here who is not doing something extremely embarrassing to themselves. There are literal spotlights directly above you and for the first time ever, in a strange crowd so far removed from “your circle”, you feel at ease. Nobody’s watching, for their eyes can’t see. Nobody’s judging, for their heads are literally incapable of processing information on such complicated levels. Everyone’s on ‘play’ and not ‘record’. You can trip and fall but within the next thirty seconds, someone else would do something way clumsier. You can dance like a scarecrow in a snowstorm, you’re likely to be applauded. Altaire’s words from the Assassin’s Creed finally makes sense to you – Nothing is true, Everything is permitted. You look around and you’re already at the centre of the dance floor. You have been for quite some time now.

Trance. Loose. Tribal.

11:30pm: You realise just by jumping in place with the beat makes you look like a better dancer than 90% of the people there. Put one arm up and sway your body either way, or stand still, the crowd will get you swayin’, and you’re pretty much set. Advanced moves may be attempted if only we were there with at least a few members of the opposite sex. Some other time. For a while, it’s just you and your friends and everyone else blends away. You realise moving is fun and soon the phones come out again and everyone starts taking pictures. You feel a tap on your shoulder and you turn around to find a fellow slouched-shoulder-sullen-face smiling at you as he asks you, very politely, to put your hands up. Um..What? “Brother, please put your hands up,” he insists. You hesitantly do, and six others join you with their hands up and suddenly your part of a circle. Shit, it’s that song. Amidst more giggles, the guy cups his palms, places them next to each other and starts the infamous “snake dance”, as a group. Like you are one gigantic snake with 7 heads. Normally this particular “dance” of the northerners sends you on a cringe rage but today is different. Fuck it, let’s do this. You do your best to twirl with the gang and just like that, you have six new snake friends. Everybody is laughing, there’s no shame. It’s new. It’s fun. As soon as the song shifts, the guy thanks you profusely and slips away to a different person. Oh, thank you, my friend. You return to your friends but on the way, a second stranger blocks you, Is he one of the snakes from earlier, you do not know, and insists you dance with him while singing the chorus. “I don’t know the words, man,” you try telling him while attempting to mirror whatever he’s doing and then you realise he doesn’t know English, man. You attempt to slip back to your friends but he continues to follow shouting the chorus and expectantly looking at your mouth. The next second he’s on the floor. The floor you now notice is completely wet and slippery with an assortment of cocktails.

You reach out to help him up but twelve others are already at his aid. He gets back to his feet laughing and his friends move him aside to a table. One of them comes back and begins to shake everyone’s hand saying thank you. You can tell he genuinely means it. It’s hard to make the distinction when people are sober, you don’t know when they mean it and when they are being polite. But this guy means it and it shows.

11:58pm: The DJ rains down more glowsticks and calls everyone to hold up their smartphones with the torch on. Flashes of white join the blues and greens as literally, everyone in the club leaves the tables, the smoking lounge and the bar to step up to the dance floor, whipping out their phones. You notice that in spite of all the crowd and the darkness and the abundant opportunities for mishap, nothing major really went wrong. Drunk people are surprisingly well behaved and decent. Of course, there’s the occasional asshole who tries to use the situation to his/her advantage but the frequency of that is astonishingly lower than you thought. People help each other, they are very respectful of each other’s space. Every time you walk between dancing couples, the guy immediately swings his arms around the girl and pulls her in to make way for you. The protectiveness goes both ways – there was the girl keeping Mr.Angry director from starting a brawl, which happened multiple times through the night, and there were also instances where the woman is the one drunk off her head and dancing wildly with her hair all up in your face only for the guy to immediately pull her down and apologise to you. No apologies required here man, her hair smells amazing. Dove shampoo? There was even a small family with a kid. At first glance, it seemed inappropriate, but they had formed a cute circle around the kid and were all dancing and swinging in their own bubble. Can’t really comment on their parenting, but it looked cute. That’s all. Drunk people are way better at treating each other like human beings, with politeness and respect than I’ve seen any sober person do.

Just as our legs were getting tired, the DJ began the countdown to New Years’.  Five. You realise you’ve missed out on so much refusing to come out of your cocoon. Four. You look around and every neck is craned towards the roof waiting for the ball to drop, like one single hivemind. Three. Maybe this year you will try celebrating a birthday and see how it goes. Two. You’re so very thankful for these friends who made it a point to drag your sorry ass to a party and paid for the whole thing and have refrained from drinking the whole night just so you’re not left out. You are so very ready for a brand new year.

ONE.

12:00am: Poppers pop and streamers rain down on you as everyone lets out a collective scream for a moment, and then the moment is gone. The arrival of the new year was probably the most underwhelming moment of the night, but it has arrived nonetheless. The music switches to yet another ‘dance remix’ of a popular song, a song that does not carry good memories with it for you. The party isn’t supposed to end for another hour but you feel it’s time nonetheless. Maybe you could wait out just this one song. Your stomach grumbles reminding you the failed promise of that unlimited buffet. You drag yourself to the neighbouring burger king, the only other store open in the mall at that hour and get yourself a sundae. A shriek is heard outside. Great. I’m the blitz. Something interesting had to happen just the very second I leave. You peer outside expecting a fight but turns out some girl had passed out, with the familiar smile still on her face and is not waking up. It was her friend, also drunk,  who shrieked and is in tears now crying out for her not to die. The closest security guard, muttering under his breath, brings in a wheelchair and wheels out the semi-unconscious girl, with her friends following her crying louder. Amazing.  Calls from family back home begin pouring in eager to send you their wishes and also slyly check up on if you had been drinking.

You rush out into the cold and find your way to your auto. The driver is way more prepared for the cold than you and your friends are and you guys huddle close to each other in the back seat. Every time the vehicle stops in traffic, random people rush out to the road and wish you a happy new year with high fives and handshakes in all their intoxicated glory. You’ve been around for twenty-one years and all your new years have come and gone the same way, with you lying in your room watching TV, texting people. Here’s to the first actual new year of many more to come.

Fight me.