Just like That | Notes on New Year festivities

Are New Year festivities hyped? For some, they are genuinely an occasion for extended revelry, especially the young; for others, it can be a very lonely experience, with their loved ones away and a dwindling number of friends willing to party the night away.

I have found one category of people particularly isolated from all the merriment. These are the old, reticent to venture out in the cold Delhi night, unable to drive or to have a driver, and incapable of hosting a do at their own homes. In this category are often parents whose children are abroad or elsewhere. There was a time when such events were family get-togethers, combining parents and children. But for many parents, this has become rarer. They are the victims — if that is the correct word — of their efforts in educating their children in the best educational institutions abroad. Now the children have settled there, many of them doing exceptionally well, leaving their ageing parents alone back in India to fend for themselves.

The manner in which New Year is brought in also changes with time. When my wife and I were younger, we would begin the evening with a celebratory drink with my mother around 9 pm. She would then have her dinner and retire for the night while we would set out. Often there were as many as six parties to attend, and we would return at dawn, a little tired but happy to be with so many friends to welcome the New Year.

Now, we either don’t go out at all, attend smaller dinners at people’s homes, and never accept more than one invitation. Also, we have preponed the magic hour of 12 pm. Usually, the evening ends earlier, since very few want to be awake till midnight, and sleep so late. Perhaps, it is a sign of getting old, or maybe of greater wisdom that it is not the number of parties one goes too, or the noise and crowds of big parties, but a more quiet and intimate gathering of close friends with home-made food and good conversation that is far more enjoyable.

ALSO READ  Coronavirus Live Updates: India Logs 134 New Covid Cases In 24 Hours

The equation between parents and children generally, and on such occasions, is a piquant one. When children are young, parents mean everything to them. As they grow older, the equation reverses. Parents become more focused on their children, while the children gradually venture out beyond the world of their parents. Their horizons widen, the circle of their friends broadens, and their ambitions and aspirations transcend the restricted interests of their parents. Now the parents become more dependent on the attention and love of their children, while the children become more preoccupied with their interests, in which the parents have an important but increasingly marginalised role.

This is the law of life, of how generations move on, and parents should understand that, and remain self-contained and busy till as long as they can. I try to implement this in my own life. My children are very caring and loving, but my wife and I understand — and respect — that our world will coincide and follow a different trajectory from that of our children.

New Year’s Eve, for the elderly, is often a reminder of this seminal truth of life. Even among the young, many choose to spend it alone, or don’t have the opportunity to spend it with others of their choice. Social pressure sometimes forces people to devise somehow, or be part of a celebration. But do they enjoy themselves, or secretly wish they were snuggled warmly at home watching TV?

In any case, it is, on the whole, a happy and joyous occasion, and I take this opportunity to wish all readers a very happy New Year. Enjoy yourselves, stay safe, and try not to have a hangover!

ALSO READ  How a Greenply Ad Inspired LJP's Film Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam


Satish is quite an institution in his own right. For decades he was the BBC man in India along with Sir Mark Tully. He is the quintessential Delhiwala, who lived till recently in his family home in Old Delhi near Turkman Gate, where the high and mighty of Delhi would gather for delicious korma and kebabs. My book The Havelis of Old Delhi is dedicated to Satish.

Satish and his wife Kamlesh’s Xmas lunch is a fixture in the calendar of Delhi. The best part is that they never change their friends, whether in the barometer of Delhi’s hierarchical society, the ranking of their guests has risen or fallen. At this year’s lunch on December 25, I was particularly happy to meet Arif Mohammad Khan, the erudite governor of Kerala, film-maker Muzaffar Ali, and senior journalist and founder of The Print, Shekhar Gupta.

Pavan K Varma is author, diplomat, and former Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha). Just Like That is a weekly column where Varma shares nuggets from the world of history, culture, literature, and personal reminiscences with HT Premium readers

The views expressed are personal

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *