Anil and I are famous for being the most boring couple in Edmonton on New Year's Eve. We are usually pretty worn out from all the work in early December and then all the festivities for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Anil always cherished the time the school was closed during the holidays and resented any instrusions on his "reading and crossword time".
This year was different though. Christmas was a non-event here, although we did call home to speak to all those gathered at my sister's and the Gurjars. It was great to speak to everyone on the phone and hear all their voices after these several months away.
We were cajoled into going to the New Year's party at the Central Provinces Club here in Nagpur. Manju left on the 31st morning to await the birth of her daughter's first baby in Mumbai so we didn't want to disappoint Kamal by sugggesting we watch a DVD and turn in early. The C.P. Club was originally a British-only club during the days of the Raj, but has been taken over by the locals since at least 1947 when India acheived its independence. It has a real colonial feel to it - large lawns on every side of the huge white sprawling bungalow with large columns at the main entrance. We had gone earlier in the month for an evening out with Manju and Kamal's friends, but I hardly recognized the place when we arrived for the party.
The theme for this year was "Bond, James Bond...007". They really put together a first-rate evening. The package we received along with our tickets outlined the New Year's Events and the menu for the Gala. The guests were asked to dress in black formal wear. I was very happy that Manju had left her lovely black sari for me to wear - I would fint right in with the theme. As we entered the grounds, there were two "little people" dressed in black with handlebar mustaches carrying what looked to my untrained eyes as luger guns, fake thank goodness. The parking lot in front of the club was closed to traffic and the tables were arranged in front of a huge stage. There were two large screens set up near the bar area, each showing a different James Bond movie. The trees surrounding the open-air gardens were twinkling with thousands of white mini-lights.
As we approached our table near the centre front of the stage, I saw that the chairs were all draped in white fabric and tied with big black bows. On each table was a welcome basket full of soft drinks, snacks, stir sticks and pencils for the Housie Game - the basket was beautifully wrapped in silver netting and tied with black and silver bows. Just as we settled in, the stage show began with a solo female singer "dressed to kill". There were laser lights, smoke machines, and an electronic backdrop that had a changing psychedelic pattern projected on it. Pinch me, was I still in India.
We attended the party with Manju and Kamal's neighbours Bupinder and Kiran Khuranna and their son Ankush. We were warned to be sure to address him all evening by his brother's name, Ayush, beacuse Ayush is a member of the C.P. Club while Ankush is not. Both young men live abroad, but the older brother had to return to his "doctor" duties in London and could not stay for New Year's Eve. I found the two names too confusing, especially after a drink or two of Scotch, so I just addressed him all evening by his pet name, Sonu. Much easier. We settled into enjoy the party and once the stage performance was over, the DJ's managed to play some pretty irresistible music and we were up on the dance floor for most of the balance of the evening.
There was the requisite game of Housie that evening and I just kept hoping that I hadn't used up all my luck during the game at the farm a couple of weeks earlier. In fact, I did miserably but Bupinder managed to win the "Full-House" category. The prizes were all themed along the lines of "007" - Super Seven was for 7,000 rupees, the lines went for 7,000 each and the Grand Prize of Full House went for 17,000 rupees. Unfortunately, with the huge crowd there, Bupie was not the only one to get the full house when the number 52 was called. He had to share the winnings with five others, but they bumped the pot up so that each winner got 3,000 rupees. We were all so excited - I took a photo of Bupie and Kiran with his winnings. There were terrific door prizes as well (LCD Television, Blackberry mobile, X box, etc.) but we were not the lucky ones that night.
The best part of the evening were the great fireworks at midnight. I love fireworks! What made these really special was that they were exploding right overhead. I don't think I've ever been that close to them before. They seemed to go on and on, easily as good as the show on Canada Day in Edmonton each summer.
One thing I probably haven't mentioned before is how late Indians eat dinner when they are in a social situation. Dinner is rarely served before 11:00 p.m. It may be partly because they don't drink wine here so they like to finish their Scotch, Gin, Vodka or Rum along with snacks before they will even consider eating dinner. New Year's was particularly late, we didn't head for the elaborate buffet until after 1:00 am. I was more than a little disappointed because the menu had listed a wide variety of dishes and much of it was gone by the time we arrived. There had been Thai, Mexican, Lebanese, Italian, Chinese, Continental and of course Indian (veg and non-veg). The desserts were pretty much gone, but that wasn't too sad for me because we have been having too many rich sweets anyway.
We headed home at 2:15 am through the still bustling streets, happy to have made the decison to party hardy. We collapsed into bed knowing we could sleep in but that unfortunately, Jan 1st was a regular working day for Kamal.
Hope you had a great New Year's Eve, whereever and however you spent it. All the best in 2007!