The neighbourhood looks breath-taking as I stand on my balcony sipping my evening tea. The twinkling lights bathe the street in a warm orange glow that persists even as I close my eyes. There is something about the festive season that puts me in a good mood.
As I step back into the house, I smile at my immaculate surroundings. Years of experience has refined our Diwali preparations down to a science. The systematic cleaning always began a few weeks in advance to ensure we were ready in time for the holidays. Gifts and sweets for relatives and friends have been purchased, gift-wrapped and lined up in the closet. We’ve already indulged ourselves in personal guilt-free shopping in the name of festive season discounts. New sets of clothes and jewellery for the wife and a new phone and shoes for myself.
Speaking of the wife, Sneha is on the phone with the caterers for the dinner party we host every year during the holidays. She looks up at me and gestures impatiently at the clock. I nod indicating that I’ve understood. It’s time to get ready for the annual card party at Rahul’s house.
She has already laid out my favourite shirt on the bed to save herself the aggravation of my legendary indecisiveness when it comes to getting ready for an evening out. That saved us a good half an hour. It will take us exactly 25 minutes to make it to Rahul’s house. 5 minutes of polite conversation in the foyer after which we’ll settle-in and wait for the rest of the usual suspects to show up. Sagar will be the last one to arrive. He will, as he does every year, blame his tardiness on a work-related emergency. Rahul’s wife will serve those god-awful date sweets that she claims are from an old family recipe, even though we all know they’re store-bought. We’ll still pretend to enjoy them while sipping tea to mask the taste. The evening will wrap up at 1 o’ clock and we’ll see each other again 2 days later for dinner at our house.
Hold on. Did I just play out the entire evening we had ahead of us in my head? It was so easy. That’s what happened last year. And the year before that. And the year before that… As if on cue, the phone rings. It’s Rahul asking me to bring an extra bottle of whiskey for the night. Just like he did at the last party.
Ok universe, I hear you. Who knew how easy it would be to slip into a rut? It’s not like I crave chaos and the kind of spontaneity that only exists in the movies but I don’t think I’m ok with predictable stability either. Where was that blurred middle ground between the two?
Sneha interrupts my thoughts at this point and shoos me into the washroom to start getting ready. I run my hand through my impressive beard as I survey my reflection in the bathroom mirror. It took me years of tender love and care to get it to the wild magnitude it boasts today.
I pull out my shaving kit. A gift from my dad. The same old razor he used at my age. Just as sharp as it’s ever been. I remember dad’s facial hair. He always managed to pull off that retro look. Something clicks into place in my head. I stroke my beard one last time. I lather up and gently place the blade on my face. Sorry old friend. Things gotta change sometime.
20 minutes later. My face looks and feels so different. I try to picture Sneha’s reaction and I can’t. I try to picture my friends’ reactions. Nope. Still can’t. I know there will be a few laughs about my look tonight but hey a little laughter is good for the soul, right? I smile and put on a pair of rose-tinged glasses to complete the ensemble. One thing’s for sure. This year is not going to be like last year.