PARTY PHOBIA

It happened. I was invited to a birthday party where I knew absolutely no one but the host.

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For the millionth time, I have missed my sister so much that day because when we were young and tailed along with my mom to various functions, boredom was the least of our worries.

We used to fret about losing our hunger and not being able to stuff our tummies with all the food on display since we ate those five almonds mom forcefully shoved into our gullets. We used to get stressed about which outfits to wear and whether we would complement each other instead of outshining one another. And when we couldn’t spot the ice cream; we used to get into a state.

 

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Our mouths were always working so much so that people who saw us often wondered what we talked about nonstop. Most of our talks were filled with blather but that kept us from getting bored. That also precluded us from socializing since we always isolated ourselves from the rest of the humanity and were lost in our silly little games and gossips.

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Hence, I’m finding it difficult to mingle with strangers all of a sudden because I was never used to that. I had my sister.

So yesterday, when I went to the party, I thought of doing an about-turn as quickly as I had walked into the door because a) I thought I was at the wrong party owing to the fact that not one . . . and I mean not ONE looked familiar. Obviously, what was I expecting? Being welcomed by my long-lost friends? b) The hall looked like a cornucopia of kids.

First, I was invited to a kid’s birthday party. So, it’s only natural to find toddlers streaming across the stage hovering near the birthday cake like houseflies around a gobbet of jaggery.

Okay, that was a mean comparison but I couldn’t think of a better one. Anyway, as normal as it is and as much as I love kids, I couldn’t bear the overload.

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Before I could escape, the father, whose wife invited me, greeted and ushered me in, scotching my only chance of getaway. He pointed to where his wife was and I followed the direction dodging past the running and screaming kids to meet her on the dais. She said her hello with a bright smile and we exchanged pleasantries before a server brought drinks. I turned to pick a glass and when I spun back again she was gone. Poof. Vanished.

I looked around and found her on the other end of the stage, welcoming more guests with the same smile and sparkle, and I stood there, awkwardness shrouding me like a blanket. I waited for her to stop by me once again so that I could stall the boredom for a minute or two. But she busied herself with arranging the table, the cake, chocolates, candies, etc. all of which were already neatly organized. Her friends too joined her and I was the only one left there, feeling purposeless and wondering why they were pretending to spruce up the already shipshape disposition.

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Then I debated walking over to the chairs and finding a space to ease my tense body on, since I was of no use to the ladies, lingering like an unwanted shadow, blocking the paths of the oncoming guests.

I finished the drink, put the glass on the tray and walked towards the chairs arranged in a semi-circle. I settled on the left side and to my utter dismay, most of the guests chose to sit on the opposite side.

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I was alone in the whole line of chairs and I could do nothing but stare at the now empty stage like an idiot. The large two-tier cake, with the big “ONE” digit stuck in the center, was mounted on the fragile table that looked like it could crumble under its weight. Then there was a vase holding flowers that I mistook for cupcakes and even pondered sneaking one. There was another glass vase holding colourful lollipops, which I shamelessly admit, made me drool. A large bowl contained a mix of chocolates and candies, which were shunned by the kids, for they too, like me, instantly took to the lollies. I saw them holding those shiny things with swirly designs and felt the intense urge to climb the stage and grab one for myself. They looked so soft like jelly.

Then there were the balloons the children were playing with. Occasionally, a balloon would sway in my way and the more I swatted it, the more it came floating back towards me and stopping right in front of my face, probably making me look like a giant balloon-head to the people facing me.

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I wondered how many of them laughed at me—the lone unwanted girl at the party. Then I remembered that this wasn’t freaking high school. Plus, I didn’t know anyone there so how could I socialize?

My friend, who must have watched my ordeal from a distance, came and asked me to shift to the right side where most of the human beings were. She introduced me to her friends and I thought this would be my chance to mingle and looked to sit beside one of the ladies.

Well, the amicable woman already had a friend by her side and it was her handbag. That’s right. She reserved a seat for her handbag and I was left sitting beside it, thereby slimming my chances of socialization. I couldn’t really talk to an unknown person, who was four feet away with a friend circle of her own. And the damned lady didn’t even look my way. So, I concluded that she was a cold woman who enjoyed the company of herself and her stupid white tote bag.

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But I was relieved nevertheless that at least I was surrounded by humans and not balloons and empty chairs.

After the cake-cutting ritual, I scooted to the dining area, and hurriedly ate to just fill my stomach and flee the spot.

Well, this whole experience had sent me on a trip down the memory lane where I didn’t have to worry about being ignored, I didn’t have to panic that my companion would ditch me for another friend, and most importantly, I didn’t have to fear parties as much as I do now.

But next time I find someone securing seats for their beloved handbags or hair scrunchies, I’m gonna tear them apart and get some more chairs to accommodate their mangled remains.

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Relax! I’m talking about the objects. Sheesh! I’m not a criminal.

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MY REFLECTION

When I look in the mirror, I see her. When I try on a dress, I visualize her in it. When I’m eating chicken fritters, I imagine her face as she gulps down the hot chow. When I see a thrill-ride, I vow to come back with her. She is the best present my parents have ever given me. It’s my sister.

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My sister, who is two years younger to me, is like my reflection. She echoes my frustrations, understands my discontentment, weeps for my sorrows, and celebrates for my joys. If it weren’t for her, I don’t know if I would ever have come out of the multiple crises I had faced during the short span of twenty-four years. She stood by me like a pillar of strength.

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People around us often wonder what we talk about because our mouths are never shut when we are together. Our blabber mostly consists of digs and barbs at people who dare to cross our paths. But past that futile gab, there’s a strong bond that can’t be broken even by Thor’s hammer. We have had our share of fights and quarrels like all siblings do. But we also developed the kind of attachment that yokes us tighter every time a serious argument threatens to rip us apart.

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Ever since she was born, I have treated her like my baby. My responsibility. My happiness. At school, I was her bodyguard, guarding her against bullies and lunchbox snatchers. At college, I was her protector, cushioning her from the blows of adolescence. And now, I’m her giant watchdog, ready to pounce at anyone who so much as considers hurting her.

Well, I have been doing a decent watchdog job except for that one time when a neighbor’s pet Labrador was set free and it came galloping towards me like a lion. At once, I let out a dramatic, loud scream and jumped behind my little sister. I was 22 then.

Oh, there was another incident during our childhood, when I accidentally locked my sister up in a room with a flying cockroach. Cockroaches creep me out. I’m phobic and allergic to them. So, when I see that beast flying, you can expect me to either pass out or go bananas. The same happened and I skipped out flailing my arms like a mad person and instinctively closed the door of the room, which held the monster in loose, without thinking twice about my sister who later emerged, bawling her eyes out.

Okay, don’t judge me by those two instances. I verbally attacked a teacher, who hit my sister for not submitting her homework on time and I was barely eight years old then. Animals scare me. Okay? I hope she doesn’t read this post because I have denied those incidents ever happened.

Anyhoo, so, sometimes, I imagine what would have happened if I were an only child. It’s a terrifying thought. I don’t think I could have survived my teenage and twenties without her by my side. She’s like a star to my night sky. The source of glitter and light. We often dream of making it to 100 together and playing the same old silly games even on our respective deathbeds.

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Gosh, it sounded okay in my mind but now it’s too morbid. Excuse me for the gloomy end.

I dedicate this post to all the siblings in the world. Let’s all fight, kick, curse, punch, slap, tease, torment, and above all, love each other to bits.

I apologize to my sister for enduring my bossy bearing all these years and thank her in advance for putting up with my future antics.