Someone left a comment enquiring about the ethnicity of this blog on blogspot- Are you a Bengali? No mate we are aliens and for your dreadful curiosity we have a work in progress by K.M. Swer. K.M. Swer is doing what Shillong does well – drunk (un)employment.
THE PARTY A guest house had been rented for the purpose . The food , of course , was catered and served on the ” roof ” which was actually a terrace with a green house kind of top . The terrace was a solid square and was made to look even squarer by the fact that the chairs were lined up against the walls on three sides while on the fourth , at the far end , the food was arranged on a long table that almost covered the breadth of the room .
The jainsems sat on the left while the sarees and salwars occupied the right -this self styled seating arrangement couldn’t be missed even if you were blind because the decibel level on the right would always be higher than that on the left .”Two dkhars make a market ” as a friend of mine once observed . The kids took up the space in the middle . The dkhar kids were chasing each other around and bursting balloons while the khasi kids watched ; wanting to join in but not knowing how to. The chairs on the near end of the room were mostly empty except for a few trousers ( the ones who came with the sarees & salwars ) who sat there as if they didn’t know what to do with themselves . But then they could’ve been entranced by the music which was some instrumental guitar crap – the tune of ‘ careless whisper ‘ playing presently . ‘ Wonderful tonight ‘ would follow , no doubt . I look over to the balcony and see that it has already been taken over by the khakis & jeans- the sons of the jainsems . And that was exactly where i expected to find them – on the outside . The other trousers ( the husbands of the jainsems ) though , couldn’t be seen anywhere .
” I’m already sick of this place ” says my cousin Mad, as we head towards the jainsems . They were all there . My mom , his sister in law , his mom , my grand aunt , my third cousin , his…….well , the entire thing. Mad and I say our hellos and waste no time in heading for the balcony. We hadn’t seen some of the khakis & jeans for a while , so we shake hands and hug each other in the long-time-no-see fashion & enquire about each other in the long-time-no-see fashion. Some of them have been there for a while , so they’re already bored and listless. We shoot the breeze for a while but it wasn’t hard to see that we all have one thing in mind . ” What now ? Can we drink or what? ” . We hung around the balcony until it became claustrophobic. Clearly no one knew what to do next .
If this was a khasi party , we would do the decent , family bit for a while i.e greet the jainsems & teetotallers, and be led immediately after to where the drinking happened . The living room for the uncles, fathers & their friends and for us a room rarely used or the cooking place. Usually the cooking place because it was always in the back of the house somewhere. Everyone understood what everyone else was doing . No questions asked , no dagger eyes . But this party was different . None of us had ever been to a party with so many dkhar families around . Talking with them was out of the question . Without any drinking and dancing , mixing was impossible. And yes, the food is almost always cooked . Rarely catered .
” Joey where’s your father ? ” asked Mad . Not that he really wanted to know but if the trousers are nowhere to be seen then , according to him , they’re somewhere doing what we ought to be doing . And if they’re doing it then it is but natural that we follow We all knew what he meant .
— I don’t know where he is but I know what you mean , says Joey
— Then lets ” Sop ” , goes Mad , encouraged . Sop is pooling in money for the booze .
— Maybe its not such a good idea . Thats all they’d need to talk .
— Yeah , my mom was saying something similar before we came- chips in one of the khakis .
— You know , that Jay’s family being Bengali and conservative and all that ……we shouldn’t embarass Angela ,or what do they call her Anjali, in front of her in – laws .
— Fuck it . Its not as if dkhars don’t drink .
— You see any of them drinking now .
— What do we do then . Eat and go home ? They haven’t even cut the cake . So thats about an hour at the least , says Mad , a little aggravated .
Joey and I had had enough . We decided to sit in with the jainsems . Maybe that would act as a calming influence .
— The boys are behaving themselves today . Thats good .” says one of our aunts , as we take our seats . Somehow most Khasi women still associate sobriety with goodness . All that alcoholism & all the alcoholics in the years gone by have left us with a burden to carry . Those self righteous , hypocritical trousers haven’t left us a legacy to be proud of . As if reading my mind , she goes on
— Look at all these dkhar boys . They’re all here in one place and when the time comes for dinner they’ll eat up and go home . Our khasi boys will have to be dragged from their drink & literally be forced to eat . Late is never late enough for them .
The jainsems agree with a vehemence seen only when khasi men are castigated in such fashion .
Joey , who is from Mawkhar, doesn’t take it very well — Maybe if khasi wives were like the dkhars , we wouldn’t have to be dragged home .
Since this is a party , they all give patronising smiles . But his mom gives him the dagger eyes . Fortunately , we spot Jay & Angela heading towards us. Angela is in traditional dress-resplendent in a green saree , bangles , sindoor , the works . Five years ago , i was exchanging Pearl Jam tapes with her . I could’ve never imagined her in a jainsem then , leave alone a saree.
— I’m so sorry to leave you all like this . We’ll be cutting the cake in about half an hour . I hope you’re not getting bored . ” She’s all smiles .
They all say they understand how busy she must be & that they’re enjoying this little get together immensely . Some of them are trying hard to ignore what she’s wearing . So hard , that if you asked them how she looked in a saree, they would’ve answered ” Was she wearing a saree . But i didn’t notice ” . They make some more party small talk before Jay asks me & Joey if we could help him with something downstairs . He probably needed to get some chairs brought up . Jay & Angela stop first at the saree side of the room where they do the little song and dance they did with the jainsems moments ago . The sarees and salwars beam at Angela with pride . They hold her hand , stroke her chin and ask her a million questions – in Bengali . But , of course , i thought . English or Hindi even , would dent their pride . She’s one of them now . She’s Anjali .
I notice Mad talking to a dkhar guy at the other side of the room . They seemed to be having a real animated discussion because the dkhar guy is slapping his forehead now , holding the back of his head a little later and ended by patting Mad on his shoulders . Mad comes over .
— What were talking about , I say.
— Asked him if he wanted to drink , he said , almost dismissively .
— And ?
— Fucker said he had to much to drink last night and all that shit – An excuse and we both know it .
Mad steps back into the balcony and we head downstairs .
— You need chairs brought up , I ask Jay .
— Nah . Nothing like that . I just thought you guys would like a drink .
Both Joey and I have stupid , silly , grateful grins on our faces . Jay winks at us knowingly .
We’d have to share a room with his friends , though . He said he would’ve given us a seperate room but two of them have been taken up by the trousers . ( So thats where they were all this time ) . Joey goes up to call the khakis & jeans while i am led into a room with about five or six guys sitting on the edge of two tiny beds slammed together. One of them I recognise immediately — Sunny . He’s half Punjabi half Khasi , looks Bengali and is about eight months pregnant . We’re related but i couldn’t say how .
To my surprise , Joey comes in with Mad and two other khakis ( atleast they had the sense to bring chairs along ) .
— Where are the others , I ask
— They decided not to come
— Why ?
— You know why .
That means that , either , the other khakis & jeans have decided to take upon themselves the burden of being the upright , respectable front of the Young Khasi Men’s Contingent . Or maybe (for a less selfless reason )they’re too scared of their moms . Either way , it didn’t matter to us who were in the room .
We arranged our chairs around the beds in a conscious effort to blend in . If it wasn’t Jay’s party , we would have seated ourselves in a different corner of the room . Sunny and one of Jay’s friends were talking about the time when they played tennis together while the rest of us pretended to be interested .
— C’mon guys talk , says Sunny after his tennis conversation . — Khasi boys are always so reserved , man . Not like us . Hum log toh kuch be bol de ta . Then as if he’d just remembered , he adds — Of course , I’m half khasi , myself .
Jay’s friends smile politely . After all what could they possibly say . But Sunny is far from over on the ethnic make up of his family .
— But my father is pucca Punjabi , not just pucca punjabi but pucca army punjabi . He still drinks rum in this heat , bloody .
And as if to add credence to his claims , he blazed aloud the Punjabi language ( clearly trying to impress one of Jay’s punjabi friends ) . The guy , Rajinder if i remember correctly , looks a little flustered .
This transformation in Sunny is clearly too much for Joey . He excuses himself on the pretext that he has to use the toilet . I tell him there is one attached to the room but he said he’d rather use the one outside . I know he is not coming back .
Sunny continued to show offf his grasp of punjabi until he could take Rajinder’s silence no more .
— Arre Bhenchud , say something , he exploded in mock anger .
— I can’t speak Punjabi , man , says Rajinder. And as if to redeem himself , he quickly adds — But i can understand it .
Sunny feigns amazement and berates him for the apparent lack of pride in his community .
— We speak Hindi at home , says Rajinder by way of explanation and not entirely unapologetic .
—- Anyway , cuts in Sunny , who is on fire by now . — I’ve got something for everybody ….a sher ” .
— Ey , lets take this bottle and get out of here , whispers one of the khakis to me .
Out of the question , I told him and noticed him politely turning his chair away from the scene of the sher .
Sunny’s sher must’ve gone down well with Jay’s friends because they asked him to repeat it till they’ve memorised it for themselves .
By this time , of course , the Khasis in the room had their own conversation going . They had stopped listening when Sunny started his sher .
— Is this how these guys talk — says one of the Ks , when i join them
— We sing songs too,when we’re drunk don’t we .
— English songs , man. I’m sure they’d know a few .
— Yeah, but nothing beyond ” Hotel California” or Bryan Adams .
We all smile at this , except for Mad . He still likes Hotel California & Bryan Adams.Anyway nothing more is said on the subject and the conversation turns into a run of the mill Khasi one-drunken misadventures ,football,girls etc . Jay comes in about an hour later & tells us that the jainsems have had their dinner and almost as an afterthought asks us to tell him when we’re ready to eat . He’s not as much trying to be offhand as subtle . We all know what he’s trying to do & we know what it meant . The jainsems have somehow gotten wind of what we were doing & have asked Jay to tell us in no uncertain terms to finish up what we were doing immediately & have our dinner. Jay ,of course, couldn’t . How can a host do a thing like that . Hence his unsuccessful attempt at subtlety. But we know the potency of a jainsem threat so we decide to do their bidding, much to Mad’s annoyance.
— C’mon man , its only nine .
— Late enough for me , says one the Ks heading for the door .
— Look , Jay’s friends are still drinking, aren’t they
— They came here with their wives not their mothers .
So Mad goes over to Sunny for support .
— Lah Bow , guys , says Sunny thumping the bed. — Look if you guys are afraid I’ll go and speak to your moms.
We shout out our ‘ NOs’. That would be a natural disaster not seen in these parts since the earthquke of1897. Jay realising that his tact hadn’t worked added with great resolve
— I’ll speak to them,don’t worry. You guys will eat with my friends & i’ll drop you all home .
This offer,magnanimous as it was, was never going to be enough. So after many lame , longwinded explanations from the two Ks as to why they should get home early , Jay relents . After all he’d done his bit . I tell Mad & Sunny that i have to inform my mom about having dinner later but they don’t let me go till i leave my jacket in the room -I’d have to come back for it , neat . I hadn’t planned on leaving them anyway. I just didn’t want to be around the dinner place when they’re being excessively polite to Jay’s parents and slurring their speech.
Jay does a great job with the jainsems upstairs. He was probably helped by the fact that most of the khasi boys were eating or had already eaten , thereby lessening the jainsems’ objections to Sunny & Mad’s disapppearance.
How do I end this shit? It was so fucking long ago.