The house was four stories tall. In Bombay it would have been 3 apartments and a penthouse but we were not in Bombay. There was a tiny lift that rumbled up and down - thank heavens we didn't have to traverse the stairs in this darkness. All four floors were pitch black and silent, so as not to wake the parents. I often wondered if they were oblivious to the gatherings happening above their heads. Or whether Stockholm Syndrome had set in and they no longer minded the teenage children keeping them hostage in a vault of ignorance.
Oh, the crowds had been mixed tonight! 3 schools already represented and counting; this would be a fun night. The school you attended is an identity that sticks with you, long after you've left. Everyone on this rooftop had been out of school for at least 2 years and yet old rivalries, preconceptions and stories found their way through the air. Things were still quiet, probably because it was early and not enough had been drunk or smoked. I was sat in a corner with the young Sir of this tastelessly decorated building. I was amongst my own but too busy listening out for familiar voices and laughs to pay much attention to my friends. Slowly but surely, the small clumps tucked away in dark corners of the roof swelled and overlapped and on the surface, all the tension was gone - though piercing glares were still exchanged between high school enemies beneath the cover of friendly atmosphere. Hopefully someone would drink too much tonight and we'd get a fight. An uneasy truce I didn't want to get caught up in. Then the door opened as usual and the girls walked in.
There were already girls here but these were the mute Sirens of legend. I chuckled as the scene turned into some cliched hiphop video: conversations stopped, friends looking in the opposite direction were nudged and things suddenly got even more interesting. There were four of them, all acutely aware of the attention they were drawing, reveling in every second but taking care not to show it. What an honour it was to recieve that solitary second's eye contact as she glanced up from her phone. But enough of this nonsense, I need a refill.
There were the usual awkward exchanges between people you used to know. I'm sure you know the kind I'm talking about. You bump into someone at the bar who used to go to the same school as you in 9th grade and after the initial shock of bumping into each other fades, there is an emptiness that fills the space between the two of you. You ask each other about each other's lives, feigning interest and even asking the odd question. But it's difficult to generate that kind of interest in someone whose life you've already prejudged. "This guy was a bad egg in school, I'm sure he isn't doing anything with his life now. He's probably at uni in Singapore or something", are the kinds of rotten thoughts that flow through one's head at such occasions.
The truth was we are all still children with juvenile agendas. The cool night air and low buzz of a dozen conversations does not cloak the dynamics of this social interaction. Those who are working are seen as the most grown up - those who work for their dads 'don't count'. Some of us are at college abroad, and you are judged based on this too. The US or UK, if you've heard of the college's name, rank very high. If you haven't heard of the college's name, you're at least respectable. Australia and Canada come next, trailed by Singapore which is seen as the kind of place any screw-up can go to, to get a foreign degree. Those at college in Bangalore rank the lowest but make up for this by acting the most macho. All the prejudices are of course, totally baseless and where you go to college doesn't say nearly as much about you as some people would think, but its interesting to sample the bigotry and bias at play.
But alas, we are civilised enough to mingle as they do in movies. After exchanging glances with someone all night whom you are positive you've seen somewhere:
"Hey, I've seen you before!"
"I know, but where?"
"Do you know ____ ?"
"Yeah, I was in the same school as her!"
"So are you at college or working or..."
And the conversation meanders on from there. Bangalore is small enough for such conversations to happen more often than you'd think. Everyone has seen everyone at Mocha or Scottish or some such popular hang out.
Oh, we have our first fight! It's not a real fight, it's a drunken play-fight. A ritual oft played out by the intoxicated males. Someone grabs someone's neck too hard in embrace, and the person spins around in outrage before everyone says, "ehhh macha is this how you treat a friend?" and all that nonsense. If you're lucky, a girl will get touched and a real fight will break out. These are the stuff of gossip rounds for weeks after. Two guys will square up, the host will usher them out onto the street to fight and everyone will watch and call people up. This is when old school time alliances and rivalries rear their drunken heads. If the fight goes on for long enough, then all sorts of shady 'pull' arrive from truly grotesque parts of town, parts of town that have become folklore. I'm talking about the Kamanhalli's and Shivajinagar's of this world. You get these frightening north-eastern gangster types on Suzuki's or a car full of dark Bangalore foot-soldiers, all heeding the battle-cry of their former master.
After the guys have been calmed down, the party returns to normalcy. The hosts do anxious rounds of the terrace, making sure no one has puked or ashed in the wrong place. I know one of the sirens through a common friend so I go over and say hi and get a hug, much to the envy of my friends. We get to talking and I am introduced to her friends. A quiet victory. I forsake my friends for this new found company, but they'd have done the same to me. It's nice knowing different cliques at a party - you can rotate when you get bored when you run out of stories to tell or times to reminisce about and yet every time you return, you are greeted with "Hey! Where have you BEEN?"
Disaster. As they were leaving, some people got spotted by Bangalore's notorious traffic cops on a random nightly tour of the area. They've been alerted to the existence of fun after curfew and we all have to leave, or risk the police waking up the parents and it simply cannot come to that. This is the sad part of the night in Bangalore, when you have to say bye to the girl you thought you had a chance with and hop into someone's car and zip away into the back streets.
If you're lucky you go to someone else's terrace where four of five of you sip whiskey or something more sinister till the cocks crow. That is how most night's end in this infant city.