There are several reasons I avoid parties – the drive, the tedium, the food, the compulsory socialising, the cheap alcohol, the prospective husbands produced by serial matchmakers… but most of all, the singing.
At any given party, there will come a point when people will run out of conversation. In other societies, this would be a good time to say goodbye. But not in this part of the world. In this part of the world, however, this is when everyone starts turning to everyone else and saying, “So, let’s have a song.”
First, this thwarts you from bidding farewell, because “Okay, so I’ll take off” is the socially accepted cue for “Arre, no, you have to sing one song at least before you go.”
Second, even if you have been preceded by someone else, it condemns you to a longer stay at the party, because it is offensive to leave when someone is singing, or when someone else is about to sing. And since the singing goes on in an unending loop, you’re stuck unless you have a foolproof excuse. The only such excuse is a wailing baby. Unfortunately, I have not gone forth and multiplied, and so am denied the luxury of using my spawn to make my escape.
Third, this convention requires you to invest energy in saying “Wah, wah” or “Kya baat hai”, clicking your tongue in admiration, sighing in ecstasy, and drawing in a breath as you would if you’d bitten on a chilli; worse, each of these must be timed to coincide with “special” moments in the performance.
As if all this were not bad enough, the singers at parties may be roughly divided into the following categories:
People who sing well, but are diffident: As a card-carrying member of this lot, I know my protests are mistaken for coyness, and so every person at the party feels compelled to redouble his or her efforts in making me sing. In the process, you end up wasting so much of everyone’s time that you feel guilty if you leave without singing. There are times when I wish I could take a leaf out of Llewyn Davis’ book, and say, “Look, I’m not a trained poodle.” Or, snap at the doctor sitting next to me and say, “Do I ask you to give us a lecture on body parts? Why the hell are you asking me to sing?”
[quote]”I think you didn’t like my singing,” they will say, and force you into a eulogy[/quote]
People who sing well, and want validation: Right, okay, so they sing well. And they will find people who ask them to sing again. And again. And they won’t stop. At the end of each song, they will beam and look at you. Unless you bubble and brim over with enthusiasm, unless you have tears in your eyes and foam frothing out of your mouth, they will be disappointed. “I think you didn’t like my singing,” they will say, and force you into a eulogy – and an appeal for an encore.
[quote]Ever since Lata Mangeshkar screeched her way into Hindi cinema, desi women have been cultivating the squeaky voices of 8-year olds[/quote]
People who have the right technique, but the wrong voice: Lata Mangeshkar. Enough said. Her prepubescent voice makes me want to puncture my eardrums, just so the tiny hairs on my neck will stop rising. Unfortunately for us desis, she set the tone – quite literally – for the ideal female voice. And so, for decades after she first screeched her way into Hindi cinema, women have been cultivating the squeaky voices of 8-year olds.
And then, there are the Kumar Sanus of the party. They have been told they can sing well, and perhaps they can, but you wouldn’t know it, because each of their syllables is filtered through their noses.
People who have no technique, and no voice, but believe they can sing: This is the worst. And when they have the floor, they will not let go. You feel so sorry for them, you want to make them feel better, and so, you say something neutral, or clap, or cheer. However, this is perceived by them as encouragement, since they are not aware that they are deserving of your pity. Not only have you ruined your evening, but also the evenings of hundreds of people at future parties. Nicely done.
Children whose parents think they can sing: My favourite breed of child is that which clings to its mother’s chunni and starts crying if a stranger talks to it. My least favourite breed of child is that which is happy to perform at the command of its doting producers. Most children sing off-key. Even on the rare occasion that a child gets the notes right, its unbroken voice is so aggravating to anyone who has not played a role in its creation that it is simply cruel to have to hear.
Sometimes, I long for the day when I will have a meltdown at a party, when someone asks me why I’m leaving so soon, and scream, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth! But here it is…”