Tuesday, October 24, 2006

diwali





This Diwali, like two Diwalis ago, was in a new apartment, living with new people, and with the brand new twist of being halfway across the world from Hindustan.
(So Gogo, Marcus and K met in Delhi after Diwali, and for once I'm the man who isn't there.)

And yet being here, halfway across the world, has been one of the easiest transitions in my life, apart from the initial homesickness and missing the sound of Hindi. Part of it being the ease of grad school bubble land, but even outside of that, this is an easy city to get along in. (Perhaps especially after coming from Delhi. Even easier after coming from Bombay I would say, where I have spent some of my most f***ed up moments, and my single most miserable day on record.) Part of it being the grad school grind (You don't have time to feel homesick). Part of it has been the ease of making new friends. Part of it the city itself, and everything it has to offer. No, it doesn't feel like home, but I'm not complaining. There are parked bikes as sculpture, there are movies every week, and there's always, worse comes to worse, St. Nicks on a Saturday night.

Part of making it feel more like home was celebrating Diwali in the apartment. The flatmates were all enthused by the idea. The house was spruced up, the room was done up, kaju ki barfi was bought from Jackson Heights. Fabio cleaned the kitchen like it's never been cleaned before, Ivor scrubbed the bathroom till it shone and Mark repaired the donated stereo system, making the eight hour 'sort of desi' playlist possible. We got by with a little help from our friends. There were the W deck playing cards, sadly unused, courtesy Joel. The candles were borrowed, tea lights in aluminium shells from Ikea serving as diyas - thanks Hester. 'My cook came all the way from Brooklyn,' as I remember saying early in the party, in a classic case of reverse outsourcing. (Yes, I must confess that I was a mere humble assistant on Saturday evening, chopper of onions, cooker of rice, occasional stirrer of ladles. The concept and execution of the chana masala were done by a paleface from Seattle, via Istanbul and Oxford.) Thanks Elizabeth.

Then the guests started trickling in, then they started flooding in. At some point in the evening there must have been between forty and fifty people in different parts of the apartment, talking to each other, not listening to the music, drinking, laughing. Early in the evening, a friend from Delhi said that there's nothing here like the conversations that we have in Delhi, jahaan log chaude hoke baat karte hain, where people in at least two parties I've been to have been so involved in their debates that they've kept talking long after the host has gone to bed. I tend to agree with him, but Diwali night felt different, it felt like being in Delhi. There were astronomers talking to artists, policy wallahs talking to art historians, physicists talking to photographers. At least five different languages were spoken in the course of the evening. There were some intense conversations that I only flitted through, playing the host. Maybe this is what happens when eighty percent of your guests are from grad school; maybe this is what happens in New York anyway; maybe we got a little bit of the spirit of Delhi going this Diwali.

Whatever it was, waving goodbye to the last of the guests at two thirty in the morning, I definitely felt right at home.
And there was a definite sense of deja vu in clearing out the mess the next morning...

Lets hear it for the dolphin
Lets hear it for the trees
Aint runnin out of nothin in my deep freeze
Its casual entertaining
We aim to please

At my parties...

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