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|Volume 11 |Issue 43| November 02, 2012 ||
The Art of Survival
Aasha Mehreen Amin
In the course of a lifetime one is often required to attend social gatherings where one is supposed to act as if one is at perfect ease with oneself and the immediate surroundings no matter how challenging such prospects are. For people who can barely get themselves out of bed, let alone go to a dinner party, social functions, where they have very little to say and even less said to them, are often excruciating experiences. There are however, certain tips to remember, to make sure one can come out of the jungle, in one piece; in other words, with one's sanity intact.
After getting through the ordeal of finding all the bits and pieces that make a reasonably decent outfit, the next step is to glide into the function as inconspicuously as possible. This will be painfully difficult if you are late at a classical music concert for example, wearing ridiculously high heels that get stuck in the carpet or a tie that practically glows in the dark and you have to brush against several pairs of knees, whispering apologies until you find that much relieving empty seat. Ignore the scowling faces and profanities muttered under the breaths of those who had come half an hour early in order to enjoy the show from start to finish. Do not be fazed by the disturbing tearing sound as you snuggle into that little seat – you can deal with that later.
If it is an official reception and you have been invited on account of your official designation and you have forgotten to RSVP and hence feel obligated to turn up, survival can be quite a trip. You must know who to shake hands with, which is not easy if you have no idea what the host looks like: you may be enthusiastically exchanging pleasantries with the body guard of some VIP and wondering why he is so stiff. Once you discover the faux pas, the desire for Harry Potter's cloak of invisibility may be acute, but you must hold your head high, find out which one is the host (from the bodyguard of course), confidently go up to him/her and shake hands, introducing yourself.
Things become a little blurry after saying hello to the host who is gently trying to extricate himself from your grip in order to greet the next person. You are soon left in the middle of the ocean. This is when you must clutch on to straws, meaning the apple juice the waiter has so graciously brought within your vicinity. Sip deliberately and slowly, as if it is an antidote for a snake bite, then tilt your head forward as if you are looking for someone, smile and wave flirtatiously at the nonexistent friend and then quickly put the cellphone to your ears as if it is a call from someone who is waiting for you at the other corner of the room, near the exit of course. Sashay along the crowd, sideways, apple juice in one hand and cell phone in the other, towards that imaginary person who will usher you out of this hellhole.
Going to a social function where you practically know everyone, is not a piece of cake either. You need to plaster a constant smile on your face (this will need at least a half hour of de-smiling facial exercises later to get rid of the aching jaw muscles) as you greet everyone. You must remember names of spouses, children of your friends and relatives as well as make the appropriate enquiries: don't ask someone who has just graduated from university, what cartoons they like watching. Time may have stood still for you (only in your head) but in reality it has been zooming at full speed like a relentless drone.
The most important skill however, is to insulate yourself with layers of thick skin to deal with the pinching jabs at your pride. Do not question the reason for your existence when someone asks you: Oh so, apart from the little articles you write from time to time, do you do anything else? Sarcasm is highly tempting but could lead to a point of no return. It will not be conducive, for instance, to retort: Oh, not really, I have been going to the office for the last twenty years, just to have a few puris and tea with my colleagues at the office canteen and make use of the office car. No don't do that, just smile sweetly and say, “No, nothing at all.”