The Winged Chair and Champagne

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Suveera shares the plastic joys of a Diwali party in Hong Kong, in her weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.

It’s a beautiful day. Perfect for the cup of coffee that has been beckoning me for the past few minutes. I pick it up and just as I’m able to enjoy it at my favourite place in the house, overlooking the majestic South China Sea, and finally lose myself in my book, the phone rings.

It’s Mrs. Sharma. Now, I know why the ring had an ominous tone to it. I have been invited to her Diwali get together. The talk of the town it always is.  However, this entire concept is a bit alien to me. Back home in India, Diwali is more about prayers and rejoicing and impromptu visits to friends and family. With a sprinkling of fireworks.

Here in Hong Kong, however, it gets reduced to partying and drinking.  Except, of course, we wear Indian clothes. The spirit, however, is lost in translation.

All these years, I have been trying hard to escape events like these. Polite conversations get me exhausted and I would any day trade a dinner invite with “acquaintances”, for a good book. It takes me into a different world. It’s like a cocoon that shields me from the pleasantries of the world!

But this time is I see my best friend’s temper rumbling in the not too distant future and I say the perfunctory “We would love to!” Alas! I have only myself to blame.

The fated day is here and we arrive at their house the essential wine bottle in hand.  Mrs. and Mr. Sharma playing the perfect hosts, greeting us with hugs and air kisses.

I see the guests sipping expensive Champagne and eating even more expensive exotic leaves. They are organic! My host tells me.  I venture into the crowd. People are very busy in their status reiterations, flaunting their solitaires and designer bags. The soft instrumental music cannot mask loud the garrulous voices. They talk about what they did the previous night, their latest digital possession, the interiors of their nth house and then again about last night. People are talking but not quite. It is only permissible to skim the surface of intellect.

I see the coveted but thankfully lonely winged chair in the corner. I decided to give it company, hoping that I would be left at peace to observe the masquerade.

Beautiful faces, shimmering gowns, and the latest most desirable gadgets. If you have it, you flaunt it. You must be loud and visible. Humility is not a virtue.

Aren’t we all living in a fake utopia, created by ourselves, where friendships are trivialised and reduced to social media when we shove our personal images onto every passerby, yet our own true feelings stay unexplored even by our own selves. Perhaps we are scared of what might be unraveled.

My musings are interrupted by the uniformed waiter very politely announcing dinner.  Needless to say, the spread is very lavish. Perhaps to compensate by means of gluttony what was lacking in substance.

Through the open kitchen, I can see the cook working with Robotic precision, dishing out perfectly fluffed puris, each like the one before, much like the people consuming them.

In this whole parade, the true meaning of the festival has become subservient to materialism.

The dessert is served. It is my catharsis…beyond doubt the only sweet part of the evening.

Finally, it seems like the night is coming to an end. The host calls for the photographer. We need to document the evening. Almost as a reassurance for our own selves.  A few perfect poses we must have, to end up on Facebook, in an endeavor to make this mirage of perfection last even after it ceases to exist.

After a hundred goodbyes and thank yous and even more air kisses, my husband rescues me.  My book is still where I left it. In the quiet of the night, I can hear the waves crashing on the beach. The lights of the city are a distant image now.

I am happy and I am home.

©Suveera Sharma

Photos from the Internet.

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Suveera Sharma is a postgraduate in English and a qualified software trainer. She is an avid reader and writer. Being the daughter of an army officer, she spent her childhood in various cantonments all over India. At present, she is settled in Hong Kong. She runs storytelling sessions for little kids and writes in her spare time.