Thursday, 2 January 2014

A Winter's Tale

Copyright (C) Shubhrata V Prakash
Ahmedabad is cold today. After ailing for a few days, the sun took sick leave today, and when the sun was away, the clouds were at play, spraying rain at will. Sweaters and coats are out and so are the words, "Aaj bahut thand hai!" After spending the last two winters in Delhi, I was amused. "If this is cold, then what would the Delhi weather be called?"

Not that winter starts out being a bad boy right from the time the hands of the weather clock strike "Winter". After days of rain, mug and sweat, the signs of winter approaching are such a welcome relief. The weather for most of November is extremely pleasant, and December, though colder, is time for all outdoor fun.

Mid-October to mid-November is the party month. Diwali parties and "any-reason"-wali parties. Drawing rooms soaked in the soft amber light of decorative lamps. Tea light holders in myriad shades of glass, Moroccan lamps and filigree-on-metal lamps are all the rage. Curtains and upholstery in jewel tones of silk or velvet bring a royal touch to the ambiance. Cushions are usually covered in bejeweled silk, which in the amber light, brings a hundred stars into the room. Scented candles and aroma diffusers spread whatever magic they claim to depart, over the indoor air. Most often, one finds chairs and tables, draped  in ivory silk, planted on the garden grass. Lights are usually strung in strands of fairy bulbs and the aroma is provided by the fragrant varieties of mosquito-repellent smoke.

If Delhi is famous for one thing, it is surely the variety of mouth-watering delicacies available at every nook and corner. Hence, the table spread is always lavish. A big clay tandoor roasts out varieties of kebabs, rotis and nans. Finger foods in an eclectic mix of chicken, fish, paneer, mushroom, and the latest debutante, corn, provide succour while people linger over their drinks. Being a teetotaler, I can only vouch for the absolutely ethereal feel of warm, golden apple cider, albeit with an Indian twist, pooling in the mouth and slowly flowing down the throat in fingers of spice-filled warmth.

Later, when the winter deepens, outdoor marquees are warmed by gigantic drums of gas, coal and wood, set on fire, with ruby embers swirling through the evening mist. Indoor seating often may have electronic music from sound docks or beautiful ghazals, in voices of renowned maestros, wafting lazily over waves from traditional speakers. Marquees and drawing rooms may also be graced by the presence of some melodious guests, who after a little coaxing, make everyone happy with their mellifluous, often-sweetened-with-alcohol, voices.

Children, almost always, never make it to the dinner. Either they are not invited, or they prefer virtual company to human company, or dinner time is beyond their bed-time and they grace the beds, settees and diwans of the hosts. Finally, it takes a whining child or two, or a school morning or some such necessity, to break-up the mehfil. Of course, after-dinner paan maybe an accompaniment for the road. The dinner menu, setting, guest list, couture, countenance and everything party is discussed by both guests and hosts at length, before retiring for the night, and then for months, to recall having last seen someone there.

Call it opulence, hedonism and what you will, but nothing matches the classiness of these Delhi Do's.

Wait for more on daytime picnics in my next post.

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