“Who’s she?” asks a colleague. “She came with my guest,” confirms another, “but who’s that with her?” It’s the middle of the week, and Delhi is in partying mode, but people we’ve invited to an event we’re hosting are coming with others whom we don’t know. They’re not gatecrashers – of which we have our share, including the frequent delinquent from down the road who’s managed to sneak past the security as usual and is now firmly glued to the bar – but they’re not officially our guests either, so how polite are we required to be?
It’s a question we must defer for the moment because, of course, there’s no way you can be rude to an invitee, even if he’s brought along a carload of non-invitees. Also, friends insist they’ve done you a favour by inviting “important people” on your behalf, but failing themselves to show up; mostly, though, it’s just guests who’ve been invited to another party who’re along because they’ve decided to go in a group, or are cadging a ride, who decide to stop en route “for just five minutes, darling”, mostly to mwah!-mwah! before moving on to the next pit stop, never quite sure where the final destination for the evening will be.
It was just such a pressing engagement that meant I had to sneak away from my own function, to present myself elsewhere over dinner, but what were my wife and I to do with our houseguests who’d accompanied us? Why, “take them along, of course,” said my wife — so we did, especially since we hadn’t organised dinner for them at home. How much easier to cadge on someone else’s hospitality and show off the city’s nightlife in the bargain.
But dinner wasn’t on the menu — yet. Friends accosted us, saying they were off to a restaurant launch, how could we not be there? “Er,” I began, wanting to mention that we hadn’t been invited, when my wife dug her elbow into my ribs and smiled brightly and said, “If you’ll just wait a bit, we could go together, it’ll be so much fun,” thereby disassociating our houseguests from us, who would now have their dinner with our hosts, but without us, and then go home with the driver, while we went off with our friends to where we hadn’t been invited in the first place.
Would our friends drop us home as well, now that we no longer had the car? They’d get their friends – “they’re almost your neighbours” – to do so, but, first, if we didn’t mind too much, they had to stop along the way to wish some recent acquaintances they didn’t like too much a happy anniversary, and if we were along, they could legitimately excuse themselves from staying too long. Alas, when we’d pecked at the cheeks of complete strangers and wanted to get going, our friends pointed out that the hosts were insisting on their joining them on the dance floor, did we mind?
Without a ride, we had no choice but to grin and bear it, when my wife thought to check whether our houseguests were through with dinner — they were, but someone had asked if they wanted to go along for a housewarming, so they’d just dismissed our driver. The driver was now requisitioned to pick us up, so we wound up home with anda-toast for a midnight snack, having attended several parties on our way to dinner, but having managed neither our goal, nor our meal.