When I moved to Dehradun, I didn’t know a soul. And then, I met enough people in the office so that I was actually saying hello and having weather-discussions with humans. But a 'social life' as is commonly understood by the term? Zilch.
Which is when I decided to create my own happenin' party scene. Taking inspiration from K&G who have a weekly pizza night, I started a monthly chai and sandwich evening. The invitees? Anyone from my office who cared to come.
Things didn’t go off smoothly all the time, of course. The first couple of times, people were not too confident of this whole 'open house, drop in if you feel like it' thing. They also did not expect that I would really just dish up chai and sandwiches and call it a party! Not that there was really a party atmosphere either. People would sidle in, sit quietly in a row with their backs to the wall, and then trickle out.
And sometimes, I was unsure too. In the beginning, and during a low period, I could not believe that people thought it worth their while to spend a couple of hours sitting on my floor. I obsessed over not having enough glasses to go around. I thought then that they come only because they feel sorry for this woman desperate to make friends. Or, as someone told me, in the hope that maybe this time, she will have some real food on the table.
One month, I didn’t host the chai-evening due to my anxiety. People came up to me and shyly asked when the next chai and gupshup session was. From this, and several little things my colleagues told me, I realised that my spartan chai evenings were actually a big part of people's social calendars- just as they were of mine. Most memorably, a colleague made me feel a little less like I was the only lonely one around by confessing that this and office-hours were the only occasions he spent time in the company of other humans.
And the life in these parties? It soon increased. People sing these days. They chat. They take it in turns to make and serve chai.
The reason I am writing all this? If you are lonesome, there are a whole lot of other lonesome souls around. Maybe you won’t make 'best friends', but one evening a month, your house will be filled with people and laughter and music, and that is never a bad thing. And it is a good thing for the others- the ones who are too shy to host it themselves. It doesn’t take much. If people want gourmet food, they will go to a restaurant. They come here for space and companionship. I have had the chai sessions on poverty-stricken days when I have not even bought butter. White bread, and tomatoes marinated in oil-and-vinegar. Bread, fried eggplant and onions. Bread and bananas, for heaven's sake. A little time, a little creativity, and a lot of attitude (They must love me) and you are good to go.
Why am I writing this today? I received the greatest possible affirmation that people look forward to these evenings. I am moving out of this house and the new one will probably not have so much space. Today the discussion - not initiated by me- is how to go on with the chai evenings. Two of my colleagues are even thinking of renting this place so that chai and gupshup can continue.