Festival Days: Of Sweaty Hands, Uncomfortable Clothes And Fake Smiles

Based on true events.

It’s festival day!

You wake up amidst a cacophony of chitter-chatter, of pans and spatulas clanging in the kitchen and a loud sound of the morning news, blasting from the living room television which no one is watching.

But all of that doesn’t bother you. You are excited to receive all kinds of gifts (rasgulla/son papdi mostly), to wear pretty clothes and meet your cousins. So, you wake up with a smile on your face and step out of your room, but the excitement fizzles out in no time when you are prodded, over and over again, to take a bath and get ready. Ready for what?

You procrastinate regardless, because it is also a holiday, a day to supposedly have fun, but the prodding continues, to a point that you want the day to end already. You take out your new clothes or the newly ironed, worn once-or-twice old clothes, from your cupboard and head to the washroom only to be interrupted twice midway: first by a random relative who asks, “Kya kar rahe ho… aaj kal? (what are you upto these days?)”, a question that momentarily throws you into a dark hole of existential crisis. The second time, it is another relative who asks you to help them carry some chairs to the terrace. Why? No questions are entertained. You haven’t even brushed your teeth until this point.

Nevertheless, you do the chores, wash up and get dressed, stare at yourself in the mirror and click pictures. The summer heat, however, messes it all up within an hour .The many background sounds morph into noise, the morning smiles on everybody’s faces turn into frowns, and the temperature in the kitchen soars as the day progresses. The gas flame remains on the whole day, as guests and relatives keep coming and going, and no matter how much cleaning and re-cleaning you do, the washbasin is always overflowing with casually thrown plastic glasses, white crockery (only reserved for festivals) and steel utensils of varying sizes.

It’s afternoon, and you have no idea what is happening because there is no space to breathe, to sit or to relax. The moment you find an empty room or a corner (which is also a rarity), you will be called to do something – from babysitting baby cousins, and sometimes even grown-up adults, rolling round pooris (pooris are made the whole day) to entertaining guests in the living room who ask you to explain your job or the course you are doing. You distract them with your weird opinions on Amitabh Bachchan, and in no time, they forget the question, and even you.

You carry on with the day in your synthetic, overflowing clothes which has many unmanageable layers that never stay aligned. You eat to distract yourself, you eat everything that you find lying around – fried vadas of the dahi vada, Bikaner bhujia, green chakli, dry fruits, or the new white mitthai you found (nobody knows where it came from, who was it meant for). You feel bloated, but you tell yourself that it’s a holiday and the new white mithai won’t come to your house everyday. So, you indulge carelessly.

As evening descends, your kajal wears out, the shampooed hair is now tied in a messy bun and you were, until then, roaming around with just one earring. Where did the other one go? You will find it under the living room diwan (single bed) three days later, but not today.

You go to the kitchen to help out, but there is no space to stand. You somehow squeeze yourself near the gas stove, to fry fritters, make tea and find packets of biscuits nestled in one corner of the top cupboard which you can reach only after putting the small red stool over the big wooden chair. You climb up, almost convinced that you’d fall but you don’t. As you rummage through the many boxes, the steam of the dishes being cooked down below fog your glasses and at this point, you just want Sinatra to fly you to the moon and never ever drop you back.

You don’t find the biscuits, so you carefully descend and the drama resumes!

Something breaks, a random child starts crying, everyone is looking for car keys and the landline phone starts ringing, constantly, piercing into your head. You rush to pick up the phone first, and answer it like a pre-recorded voice machine, trying your best to cut the call as the awkward silence makes you and the person on the other side of the call even more awkward. You abruptly hang up, and plan to blame the bad network (perks of living in Old Delhi) in case they question your audacity.

The evening is here, and the celebrations are supposed to begin, but you just want to change your clothes and sleep for eternity. But wait, the milk on the gas stove is about to boil over. You brace yourself, collect your strength and run towards the kitchen. You run almost like the Flash, slip (because you are not) and accidentally hit your tiniest toe on one of the legs of the bed.

Now, it’s time for a family photo.

You are asked to say “cheese” and smile!

You wipe your sweat, adjust your clothes (for the 500th time), let down your hair to cover the ear with the missing earring and stare into the camera. And you… smile.

Now who will drop the relatives home?

The car keys have yet to be found.

Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty