Desi get-togethers

Why I opt not to participate anymore

Flashback to the days when I used to attend family and other social gatherings.


Ten minutes into the ‘party’, I find myself in the middle of the living room trying to decide what to do till dinner is served, which appears to be an eternity away. I observe three different groups in the room. In one corner, Aunty Shumaila and her gang have poor Amir surrounded on all sides. They want to know precisely when he is going to tie the knot, apparently an event of cataclysmic significance. Amir has been asked the question countless times before but knows no satisfactory response to it, at any rate none that can be said to conform to accepted norms of polite society. Amir tries to put up a brave face, but not very convincingly. I have all the sympathy for him but have no appetite to play the rescuer. Not able to take it anymore, he finally decides to escape the barricade of the well-wishing ladies who are now offering their services as match-makers. The ladies are piqued and look around for somebody else to shower their loving attention on.


On the sofas near the far wall of the living room are seated several senior citizens, each absorbed in his cell phone. Every now and then they smile or laugh, which is followed by silence again. Nobody is talking to anybody else, and one wonders why they even chose to attend instead of staying home. Occasionally however, one gentleman enthusiastically shows his phone screen to another gentleman who chuckles at the reel or the meme but in a way that leaves no doubt about his conviction that the item is not nearly as funny as the other gentleman thinks, and that he has a much funnier collection in his own phone, not to mention an infinitely better sense of humour. One gentleman has had enough of this ‘activity’ and has decided to catch up on sleep, probably the wisest decision under the circumstances.


By now, I have only managed to kill fifteen minutes out of who-knows how many hours till dinner. I return to the lobby to take stock of the situation. The living room (where I was a few moments ago) is behind me. To my left is the drawing room and to my right the dining room, from where ladies can be heard discussing the latest dress prints. While they principally talk about who wore what when, they are not averse to taking thinly veiled digs at the ladies that are not present, to the approval and delight of those who are. Nobody dares leave, for fear she will become the certain object of bad-mouthing. Besides, it is too much fun.


In the drawing room, a group of smartly dressed youngsters is engaged in a heated debate. Hoping that it is a philosophical question or a sports rivalry at issue or, better still, the merits of Ghalib vis-à-vis Mir, I make my way to the group. I find out to my disappointment that it is politics that is being discussed. In fact, it is less a debate and more a recycling of stale jokes and memes that everybody and his grandmother has already seen and Haha-ed on the social media. Making an excuse, I leave the room on the first opportunity.


Although it is well past dinner time, there is no sign of dinner yet. I am positively starved by now. I decide to take the law into my own hands and make a clandestine trip to the kitchen to see if I can get outside some food on the sly. Nothing doing, for five young ladies are busy taking endless selfies and photos of the different dishes and sweets placed on the table. I drink a glass of water and pretend that that was all I visited the kitchen for. Criminal ideas momentarily cross my mind, but good sense prevails.


I return to the living room and find out that Aunty Shumaila and her gang have now got hold of poor Hamza. Up until a year ago Hamza was in Amir’s unfortunate position – being asked by everybody to provide the detailed timeline to his wedding day – but now he is happily married. This fact, however, is not enough for the gang to let him off the hook so easily. The ladies insist on knowing when Hamza is going to become a father. Aunty Sameena specifically wants to know the precise nature of the problem, and whether the couple has consulted a gynaecologist. Aunty Kishwar offers Hamza the dietary regimen that proved so very effective when her niece found it hard to conceive. I cannot help feeling that we, homo sapiens, sadly are not going to make it.


A group of energetic senior citizens is assembled near the staircase in the living room. Amir, who we left attempting to escape the inquisitive ladies, has apparently managed only to jump from the frying pan into the fire. For he is now bombarded with questions about where he is currently at professionally and what he intends to do with his life in future. The questions are interspersed with examples of various gentlemen’s sensational achievements when they were young men, which shows Amir’s lack of clarity and preparation on the issue in even more of an unfavourable light. The seniors keep referring to Amir as ‘Young man’. The young man, on his part, is wishing he were dead or in Timbuktu. And so am I. My only other thought being: How much longer till dinner?


Those days are gone, and not a moment too soon. I have since learned to make it a point to politely excuse myself from attending such gatherings, and am none the worse for it.

Hasan Aftab Saeed
Hasan Aftab Saeed
The author is a connoisseur of music, literature, and food (but not drinks). He can be reached at

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