I remember a time when the New Year
party was a standard feature of our home. We’d ask our friends over, there were seldom any dropouts, most brought other friends along, some carried bottles of booze for the bar, and if there was dense fog they slept over in whatever bed or sofa was unoccupied. Food was plentiful, but incidental; music was important — and the louder, the better; complaints by neighbours were dealt with friendly indifference; and visits by the force were handled by those who knew how to deal with such incursions. They were egalitarian times, and nobody minded high spirits and a little drunkenness.
Then came liberalisation.
Friends began to travel on NY breaks — to Goa, to Thailand, to places and parties more exotic than ours. We dwindled to a few regulars who’d sip mulled wine, sit around a bonfire and recollect times when it was difficult to find elbow room in the house. Stories and incidents about New Year
parties past occupied us more than the New Year
party present. The music was softer, we ate more than we drank, and bedtime was soon past midnight rather than post-breakfast in the morning.
This was a time when the kids abandoned us. They didn’t want to play bartender at our parties, or manage the music, or hang around with those of our generation, and made their horror of asking their friends over evident. We used to laugh at people who went out on New Year’s to party amidst strangers and had often wondered who these persons were — now we know they include our children.
When a few days ago, I heard the children making plans, and booking reservations, I offered, once more, to host them to a New Year’s at home — but incentives of free alcohol, hot food and music of their choice fell on deaf ears. I suggested a bonfire and barbecue, to all of which they shrugged indifferently, having done it all before. Reluctant to spend another evening reminiscing of times past, I suggested to the children that we accompany them, but the response has been less than encouraging — they’re not sure yet of where they will be; they might party-hop; there won’t be other parents around; we’ll get bored, or drunk, or worse, and embarrass them; why can’t we just stay home like other oldies and let them be?
Which is why, dear reader, I plan to spend the last hours of 2019 in the countryside, watching 2020 come in not with a crescendo of music, hugs and smooches, but quietly, almost discreetly. I plan on having a drink by my side, a book to read, feet tucked under a blanket. I might take a brief moment to thank for the gift of family — so what if they chose to abandon me on the occasion — and a hope that the madness of governments and societies be of the past. The witching hour that marks the passing of a year, and a decade, holds a magical wish that things might yet be better. I hope to wake to a breakfast I can pluck off the vegetable patch, with milk directly from a buffalo — while the rest of the family, and the world, nurses hangovers. I’m not saying I’ll like it; I’m saying I’ll do it.