Tomorrow it would be three Mondays back, when I had lunch with my supposed better-half’s very good friend’s bright and ebullient daughter.
Now she is a good 20 years younger to me, and one might wonder, what on earth, would we have to talk over a solo meal. Yet, as they say, what does, “Age have to do with it?!” It was, after a good while, that I could actually talk to someone who, after every ten minutes didn’t have to keep dipping into her phone or wasn’t compelled by tech-propelled traits. Amidst many other matters—funny, amusing, engaging and refreshing in a Columbus-esque way.
(Christopher Columbus just popped up from God knows where, imagining his astonishment at not finding a route to India but landing up in Native Indians’ homeland, later christened the New World.) Half way through our lunch, while both of us, in a kind of fired-up Siamese unison, were grasping for answers regarding India’s very unabashed, unblushed, unshrinking consumerism, shopholism. (Could go with adjectives but the point has been driven home!) Again, the mystery of spiraling inflation and binging. Buying and congenital covertness made both of us burn a collective circuit in our brains.
(Of course, need not clarify that referring here to the not-so-middle, middle and upper middle classes but nevertheless, believe I should, ‘lest some reader sends a nasty note of our heart-breaking poverty, accompanied with a stack of loose-leaf papers bearing statistics of our impoverishment, of the hand-to-mouth pauperism of millions…) Back to this disassociation, this schizophrenia where one can, at a whim, dismantle (demolish, the more apt word!) one’s bathrooms, kitchen to update, upgrade them, modelling them to be further so modular (whatever that’s supposed to signify!) or think of replacing a two-year old car, believing it’s done its share of running the roads, falling in the archaic category and so a swanky set of wheels is an inescapable requirement.
(Naturally, a loan has to be drawn out from the bank, ditto for the home renovation where one provides papers, or call them Undertakings, that water pipes had burst, thus the need for express plumbing etc. and etc. and thereby, a helping hand from the house insurance comes into the picture!) Now this young friend of mine, who happens to be an applaudable Economist, was very much clueless how this country’s economy is both afloat as well as submerged or rather sunk as a dead fish. As for myself, who of late, has been seriously preoccupied with how to find a therapist to give the husband a digital detox, who as a result of WhatsApping to, the Lord alone knows, how many broadcast groups too wished Bob Dylan’s, “The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind” would explain how in a fragmented economy, we manage to live in an over-the-top capitalistic reality! Then the dear girl had, what to me was a jaw-dropper (thank heavens there was no food in my mouth!) a story to narrate.
A couple of months back, her friend held a birthday party—though “party” does not begin to describe it—for her 5-year old kindergarten-going Munchin. And before getting into the all-stops-pulled-out birthday bash here, necessary, as in mandatory, to state, that the mother of the b’day child, was not dripping of diamonds, did not belong to a business family…in other words, maybe even broke her fixed deposit to throw this insanely lavish jamboree. And so, this sadly true-to-the-last-rupee story goes: a cinema hall was booked at a swanky Mall (what’s a party without a 3-D movie where special eye-wear is handed out to take in the unique animated, automated effects!), the reclining chairs were dressed up with different coloured satiny covers.
Ambience kicks in the right atmospheric tone, mood. Before prancing on, must halt to unriddle or throw light on why an entire auditorium was booked. The school, which this tiny-tot attends categorically has laid down the rules that if parents are holding a party for their child, the entire class has to be invited, not the handful of friends they play with in the school’s sandbox. It goes by the name, “Inclusivity”! And since 5-year olds can, by no means, make it to the venue on their own, Mommy dear chaperoning the child gets an Invite, as does the Ayah of the little one, since the mother finds it quite impossible to run after, keep track of her ward.
So, capture this frame: 30-odd kids, near strangers, except that they share the same class teacher and yes, a gaggle of them are playmates, would rather be somewhere else than at this party. Preferably doing companionless bungee jumping, then waddling (obesity, courtesy junk food of the double cheese burst pizza variety, has hit scores of our children) their way to the food court with Ayah in tow.
This while Mummy is checking out the latest Michael Kors bag or sashaying into Sephora for getting a free face makeover with Givenchy, Clinique, Bobbi Brown cosmetics, which after acquiring a new, synthetically younger look via this face paint, the lady decides to buy a pretty packet of these designer beauty enhancers. But back to the birthday setting—Moms wearing a bored-to-death look, waiting to slip away, eyeing the nearest exit, clowns doing their acrobatics with kids paying little heed, since they are engaged with the I-phone snatched from Mom’s freshly manicured hands, helium balloons, in all rainbow colours, bearing the face of the birthday babe, flying as high as the ceiling, a 3-tiered cake in the shape of Richard Branson’s Space Ship and snacks catering to our global palate doing the rounds on a carousel. Everything showy, ritzy…this all at the cost of 5 lakh rupees. Seriously 5,00,000 rupees. My friend’s friend explained this extravagance away (vulgar, crass display is what it, at its mildest best, can be called) by mentioning that after sonny boy’s 1st birthday there was no party since Covid had taken over. And every frame of this event was Instagram worthy, and he would forever remember his parent’s love for him.
Questions: Everything does not come with a price tag, or does it?! And do we make memories before we actually live/feel the experience?! And who empowered schools to draw up the guest list for students’ birthdays/get-togethers?! Police Patrolling in the name of Inclusiveness?! Forced Plastic Universality?! Instagram Coverage furnishing Permanent Credibility?!