New Year’s Eve can be such a crapshoot holiday, especially when you’re in a strange town. I’m no stranger to traveling over New Year’s — usually in Miami — but this was my first time celebrating in an entirely different continent.
In Bangalore, I anticipated a quiet countdown thanks to two factors: I don’t know the local language and the majority of my India crew was over the age of 50. So when 2 p.m. rolled around without solid plans, I was resigned to the fact that I would probably pass out in the hotel room before midnight.
And then one of my husband’s uncles came to the rescue with an idea — he would take us to Bangalore’s Television Cultural and Sports Club. This entertainment complex was built ostensibly for the recreation of local TV and soap stars — but membership is open to non-entertainment types, too.
I was PSYCHED about this plan. One of my favorite things to do on Saturday nights is to watch Desi soaps with my mother-in-law. (These serials are broadcast in the Kannada language, which of course I do not understand. Luckily, you don’t need to speak a foreign language to understand the inherent drama of a soap opera.)
So once I heard that the entertainment was going to be provided by singing soap stars, I immediately threw together my best party outfit.
The outfit came together seamlessly. The sequined yellow tunic was purchased in Mumbai for almost nothing. The leggings and scarf were fast fashion purchases from the states. And the beaded bracelet clutch was a gift from my husband’s cousins in Mumbai. I busted out my red lipstick for the one — and only — time on this trip. My mother-in-law also added a bindi to seal the look.
Now, this outfit is basically my fantasy of Indian formalwear, thanks to the rich colors, like the turmeric-colored tunic and the gilded sequins. When I am in a foreign country, I dress with all the zeal of a child, simply gravitating toward the colors and materials I love most, regardless of their sophistication.
But something occurred to me a few days after wearing this look. Because I am so far removed from the nexus of Desi fashion, I actually have NO IDEA if this is fashionable to the Indian fashionista’s eye. If I had lived in Bangalore all my life, would I find this to be stylish?
It brings to mind all those tourists who buy Juicy Couture by the armful — since velour jumpsuits are so outdated, they must buy them because they genuinely love them, right? In short: Am I an inadvertent, blissfully unaware fashion victim? And if so, does it matter? (The answer is always “no” for a gleeful tourist like me.)
Does anyone have a theory on this?
Back to the party. This was a seated, outdoor dinner — with live entertainment, a dressy audience and two emcees. The perimeter of the area was lined with red and cream curtains, but local kids without a ticket scaled the neighboring trees so they could watch the show.
The entertainment was delightfully campy. There was plenty of singing, of course. There was an acrobat who dressed up as an ostrich for an interpretive dance. And here’s a snippet of one of my favorite performances, right out of a Bollywood music video:
The food was almost entirely of the fried variety. (Please note the enormous presence of CARBS.)
The people watching in the audience was, by far, one of the best parts of the evening. Behind our table, there was a banquet table of cavorting men who were dancing up a storm. I easily would watch a version of Dancing with the Stars with these guys.
Here is my husband, trying to not die laughing:
We left the party shortly before midnight to beat the legendary Bangalore traffic. (Yes, it really is that bad. Here’s a taste.) As soon as the clock struck 12, we passed this enormous light-up installation of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
If that isn’t a good omen for a new year, I don’t know what is.
As soon as we pulled into out hotel around 12:15, the fireworks started erupting. (Everything in India starts just a little late.) We quickly dashed to the roof and got what felt like a private show over our quiet part of the city.
There’s something magical about plans that come together — and miraculously gel — at the last minute. Here’s hoping that it was a sign of the start of a very auspicious year!