Have you ever been intrigued by the idea of gate crashing? I have. Blame it on Bollywood. Every year, during my annual visit to India, I feel tempted to dress up and show up at wedding receptions, uninvited, 3 Idiots style. However, a part of my brain still reeks of conscientiousness. But like they say, if you want something real bad, the universe conspires. And so, the universe gave me my daughters. The older one is too sober and principled for my low standards. I am betting all the money on my younger one for now.
She comes home jumping in excitement with a handwritten letter one day. It’s an invitation to a birthday party. Her classmate has written it down on a page torn out from her school notebook. It reads,
come to my brother birthday. only you not your sister. put pant because we are playing. be there at 6.30”
The older one and I are in splits over the contents of the invitation. My 10-year-old is amazed somebody wants her so out of their party. The little one is raving over the fact that her sister has been exclusively asked to stay out. She is happy the invitation is meant for her alone. Tagging along as the younger sibling of the main guest is so past tense. The world of a 6-year-old is far from perfections, civil behavior and certainly formality.
Mothers, on the other hand, are boring creatures. They are interested in petty details that tame their false egos. So, all I hear from the letter is a loud shout, “Missing details and no contact by the parent”. I put my best foot forward to explain my point of view to my bundle of joy without trampling all over her emotions.
“I need the mother of the child to call me”, I assert. “Besides, there are missing details in the address. We need to know what part of Singapore your friend lives in”.
But my 6-year-old has a mind of her own. She is hell bent over going to the party. She grabs a piece of paper, scribbles my phone number over it and hands it over to her hostess the next morning. The hostess, in turn, writes her a fresh invite with complete address, revised time – 4pm and extends it to me too. Yet, there is no communication from the mother. As a mother of 2 myself, I am aware of the dilemmas we face while vetting the guest list. Hence, I figure, it is only the little girl who wants to see her girl gang to match up against the older boys who would obviously leave her out on the d-day.
Closer to the date, my little munchkin is too eager to wait any longer. I am certain I do not want to go. But little kids have this uncanny ability, pretty much like girlfriends and wives to get you to jump in the well, no matter what. Do I see the men smiling?
She pulls a long face and dresses it with the saddest expression in her mental closet in exactly a 10th of a second. She asks me in utter seriousness, “Mumma, don’t you want to go to the party?”
I sit her down, woman to woman, and engage in my most crucial conversation yet. I reply, “What if the parents don’t know you are invited? What if they know but never intended to have us over? Or what if we go there and I am unable to make friends with the mother?”
Her facial expressions change a little more while her mood nosedives. It is as though the world is coming to an end and I, the Wonder Woman am reluctant to use my superpowers to save it from doom. I stagger between two choices. To go or not to go is now the question. Make a wild guess.
We find ourselves standing at the entrance to her friend’s place at exactly 5 pm. A time strategically decided upon; we wouldn’t be awfully late for a 4pm party and just in time to help out with the 6.30pm. My mind is anything but peaceful, waiting to face my most embarrassing moment yet, while my 6-year-old can’t wait to barge in. We ring the bell. The corridor is lined with plenty of shoes. The little monkey offers me solace by reiterating the house is full of guests and so the party is on. With all due reluctance, I fake a smile.
The mother of the hostess ushers us in. I introduce myself and the obvious guest and the expression on the mother’s face is priceless. She is a terrible actress and there are no prizes for guessing I have shattered her faith in humanity. I am glad she hasn’t fallen of shock. Despite her utter dismay, she welcomes us and begins feeding me like we Indians are accustomed to treating guests (Atithi Devo Bhava – guest is God), while getting her helper to ready snacks for the real birthday troops that are currently outdoors, enjoying their boy time. Our little girls flutter away into one of the bedrooms and enjoy manicure in the meantime. My daughter needs no introduction to the house she is entering for the very first time and hopefully not the last.
The real hostess is left to my mercy. I gulp some lime juice and make small talk. Then there is silence. I quickly gaze around the room and make conversation about all the trophies that decorate their living space. Then there is more awkward silence. I sip more juice and wonder how slowly I would need to sip, given the interest level of the hostess in bringing up any conversation at all.
By now, I realize I cannot leave without witnessing cake cutting since my little one is all immersed in play. And birthdays without cake are unheard of, at least among humans. There are three girls, all lost in their world of dress-ups. I plant myself in a chair with a sigh, glass in hand waiting for my forced hostess to utter something. Even a ‘Get Out’ would be worth the while. But she is surely taxing my patience.
My mind imagines the worst possibility – my picture making the rounds on WhatsApp with a, “Beware, gatecrasher woman in Singapore. Dresses up, tags along with a very cute and witty child and shamelessly wolfs down any food and drinks offered. Your best bet is to ignore her door knock. If she gets past your entrance, you are dead meat!!”. I see myself losing all acquaintances I already have. I almost die of a heart attack imagining an empty phone book and zero WhatsApp messages. It hits me like a stock market crash.
Back into the real world, once again, I find myself juggling between 2 choices. To feel dismal for the rest of the evening or don my thick-skinned persona and start chattering and feasting non-stop. Little wonder then, I pick the latter. After about 15 minutes into torturing the hostess, her husband appears, cake in hand and a bright but confused smile for the uninvited guest. To my respite, he is good company and we have a lot in common to talk about including my better half who, it dawns upon me has met this gentleman before. Hello…. why couldn’t he offer to ferry the little girl?
I don’t realize anymore how long I have been blabbering until the kids are back and famished and it is time to get to the real business – cake-cutting! I redeem all kindness by helping with photo taking (which is actually not my forte, I am better off munching, thank you). I continue to play the good guest by tasting every single dish offered to me. By this time, my hosts are a bit at ease (after all they are a team of 2 against 1 shameless intruder) and it looks like they have realized I am no real threat. In fact, I have gobbled up a better part of food, saving them any guilt trip over food waste affecting the planet bit. The evening takes a slightly merry turn and we reach the point of exchanging phone numbers. Ahem ahem. That’s what I call forced acceptance just like arranged marriages.
When it is time to leave, the host asks me to stay back for dinner out of sheer politeness. The very first thought that hits my mischief monger mind, “What if I readily agreed? I would love to see that reaction”. I almost giggle but decide not to harass the mere mortals anymore and turn the offer down. I am so ready to dart out of their place bringing an end to everyone’s obvious misery that feels nothing short of some reality show.
I wish to turn back time and vent out all emotions the minute I spot my better half. But then, a tiny human being holding onto my palm is all happy and perked up to share her account of the party with the one that wasn’t invited. A party she never understood was any different for me from ones where her mother gets formally invited and feels at home. The radiance on her face and the satisfaction of devouring the birthday cake successfully fade away the unusual experience I went through. I take a deep breath, laugh over it, forget about the complains and head out to our favorite Italian joint for dinner with my awesome family.
P.S. Be careful what you wish for. You never know when the Universe hears you out! And in case it does, enjoy what you signed for.