This was my 40th New Year Eve celebrations. Can't say I remember the first 5 , but definitely remember the rest.
Starting with Digboi- the township set up by the British for excavating and refining oil in one of the oldest refineries in the world. New Year's Eve in Digboi in the late seventies and early eighties saw Mum and Dad dressed up for a night out at the Club. There would be a live band, and a great supper. Digboi would hit 2-3 degrees at night, but for the Cluber Goers, it was a night of warmth and cheer as everyone, year after after danced the night away and wished each other a Happy New Year.
I was not part of this, so what I have painted is a recount of what Mum would tell us the day after, as we listened in rapt attention. We were too young to be "allowed" to these parties.
1986. First New Year Eve in Guwahati. Chandmari house. Mum, my sister and me alone. Had an early dinner, tried cheering each other up. But the spirits still sagged. Till one of us switched on Doordarshan. And we sat glued to the New year program, the songs, the acts, the jokes and the final fireworks. Brought a smile to our faces as we wished each other a great year.
This continued every year, but the choices increased. Cable TV had happened and we could switch channels and see what was happening on a Star Plus or a Zee TV. We could also see what was happening across the globe when we switched to a news channel.
1997. Calcutta happened. I was working on Wills, in the then HTA and as part of the team, was sent invites by the client for the Made For each Other Nights in the Clubs. Soon Tolly, CCFC, Saturday Club became our New year haunts, as we got to know more people, became more social and got invites. New year Eves in these Clubs were very "English" affairs- great hits belted out by top Indian bands, a full dance floor with couples jiving or swinging to an elegant ballroom dance, martinis and malts flowing out of the gleaming wooden enclaves housing the bars.
2000. Mumbai. No Clubs- at least not the ones like Tolly. New Year Eve meant paying a couple ticket for a do at a four or a five star. We would go with friends, get a good deal, sway to the now popular Bollywood numbers, oggle at a Bollywood celeb who made a last ten minute entry and disappeared soon after, rub shoulders with strangers on the packed dance floor. Food was always good- long vegetarian sections showed the veg- non veg mix in these parts of the country. Since there was no entry barrier- whoever shelled out the money could join the party, sometimes it would lead to bar brawls and dance floor revellry. It was all part of the fun. It would end with stealthy driving across lanes and gullies to avoid the ever vigilant police force arresting drunken drivers.
2010. My first New Year Eve in the Capital City. Was wondering what it would be like.
Decided on a close family affair. Just a couple of friends and us. Grilling potato wedges and kebabs on a barbecue on the lawns. Hugging each other when the fireworks in the sky announced the dawn of 2011, and enjoying a simple but delicious home cooked meal. Was one of my best New Year Eves.
Realised that life has indeed come full circle.
And that, with time, celebrations are what we make of every moment.
Not necessarily what we pay for.