Thursday, November 10, 2005

Holiday Party

I wrote this a while ago. It's almost the holiday season again and I am amazed and grateful that life is so much different today.

My cell phone announced a new voice mail though I had never heard it ring. It was Jay, the headhunter I had worked with for a year. We had never met before since we lived in different cities. "Now that you're here, I would like to invite you to a friend; holiday party. You will get to meet a lot of Indian families. Sheetal and I will pick you up at about eight. Let me know if that will work."

I was at the time brand new in the city, staying in a seedy motel calling dealerships frantically to strike a deal on a car that I needed to buy within a week. In a world full of shiny, happy people with grand plans for the holiday weekend, I felt a perverse solidarity with the car salesmen who were obviously not having as much fun as everyone else, and as of now not even getting my business. I had resigned myself to three days of uninterrupted channel surfing until hunger or sleep overcame me.

It was well past eight when a black Infiniti SUV pulled up outside my room. I was greeted by a man dressed in black whose effusive "Hello" was accompanied by a bone crushing embrace. His wife and two kids remained seated in the car. I was the sole spot of color in a sea of black made of Sheetal's black halter neck gown, the black leather interior of the car, two deathly quiet children and the darkness of the night. Sheetal exuded a cloying sweetness and kept up a lively yet completely inane conversation all the way to our destination.

Jay's friend and his friends were uniformly young and rich. Their wives were Sheetal-clones. Sweet, with blond highlights in their hair and dressed to reveal oodles of skin. In an all Desi crowd, I was the sole anachronism dressed in a silk sari and Pashmina shawl. Jay took me over to the assorted wives who had no idea what they should do with a museum exhibit such as myself.

Pleasantries veered quickly to "Where is your hubby ?" I gave them my standard issue response about being separated with a two year old in India who would be joining me soon. I figured with so much peroxide, midriff, navel and cleavage to be seen around the room it would be no big deal. I was wrong. The twin revelations rendered them speechless. Upon recovering they said "That must be very hard for you" like I was in bereavement, and made haste to mingle elsewhere in the party.

It did not take too long for the state of my marriage to turn common knowledge and to find myself on the fringes of the gathering. While the women treated me like a viral strain that would blight their happy marriages, some of the men eyed me with an interest that I found difficult to find flattering. The night was still young and I could see myself waiting an eternity to get back to my motel.

Picking up a glass of wine, I settled on the couch to watch people. Jay noticed I was alone and came over. His arm around me was wholly unnecessary but it stayed there in full view of Sheetal. I figured my archaic value system did not fit with the kind of people I was dealing with. When R (my Ex) was still my husband I don't recall being faced with anything remotely similar. While I was not in a marriage anymore, I did not feel single at all. I wondered if I was in the wrong kind of crowd or if my marital status was wrong.

As the evening progressed, an assortment of men offered to refill my drink and asked me for a dance. Some of those gyrating wives minus their love handles could have given Bollywood starlets a run for their money. Jay's buddies were actually teasing him about his tendency to gravitate towards me once too often. To Sheetal's credit, her high wattage smile did not miss a beat through all of this.

That party was a indicator of my life as it would be after my divorce finally came through. I was a now officially the pariah. Since I had left my husband, a lot of men think I will sow seeds of discontent - if not rebellion in their wives' heads. Then there are those who salivate over me assuming I am sexually starved.

In either case the chances of my striking a friendship with the couple are negligible. Either she has him on a tight leash fearing I will cause him to stray or he has her thinking the very same thing. While J (my litle girl) is missing out on a normal, healthy social life, I do all I

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