Shucks! It’s that time of the year again… when the year is ending and I am yet to come to terms with the number of resolutions I had started with and the usual consistency with which I miss the so called ‘set goals’ for myself. It’s that time of the year again, when I am wondering what to do on New Years Eve and even after vowing that I wouldn’t spend it at home, rolling in the New Year while watching some jerks histrionics on TV, that’s what I end up doing year after year :-(. But it wasn’t so this particular year. Luckily I was in Japan at this time of the year, last year. I was excited and sad about it at the same time. Excited cause I was in an all new place and would get to see something I haven’t seen ever and also because I would have the independence to do as I please, which gets toned down majorly when I am home… (yeah talk abt it being 21st century and all that, but it only implies more restrictions AFA my parents are concerned). Was sad, cause after all, I wouldn’t be able to spend it with my folks back home…kya karein the grass is always greener on the other side. But definitely the excitement was much more than the despondency and I was in major josh about the new year plans.
Now it so happened that initially I was going to be all alone (from the desi junta at my office), but later, it so turned out that there were 5 of us there on New Years Eve. Our plans were subject to a lot of hindrances. The first and foremost being that we were all at the client site, working our butts off, working on weekends etc and the prospects of 1st Jan being in jeopardy were quite high. The other reason was that we were being thrown out of our accomodation.. ok I’ll substitute a politically correct term -> we had been asked to vacate our guesthouse (also called skyhouse) because it was to undergo renovation and we were supposed to shift to some place else, maximum by 31st dec (that was not a headache for our client, but for us). This problem had sort of been taken care of by yours truly, at least AFA finding a suitable place which would be convenient for us desis in terms of cooking, costs, distance etc, is concerned. But the shifting bit was still pending. So I’ll cut down to the actual moment, cause that is the interesting bit. Eventually there were just 3 of us, for a so called new year bash. The other 2 preferred to gift themselves some sound sleep instead. Believe me, it’s a very sensible gift, if you have been slogging like that. However, unlike those 2, we, (P, R and I), were bent upon making it a memorable New Year celebration for all further ones to come. We were pretty sure, we wouldn’t be coming back to Japan ever again if we could help it, so this was our only chance to celebrate New Years here. We decided that we would shift into our new Hotels on 31st Eve and then leave for gallivanting around Tokyo!
On D-day, (31st) we left a little earlier than usual (read on time) so that we could get on with shifting. I had the maximum stuff to do. I had to pack up the mini kitchen I had setup and also finish off the cookable stuff because the new hotel in which I was to shift, didnt have the provision of cooking. Also, not only did we have to vacate the room, we also had to CLEAN it up properly, get it APPROVED from the attendent and *then* check in into the new accomodation! For this, an ‘appointment’ had already been fixed with the attendent and there’s nothing in the world that the Japanese are more particular about, if it’s not punctuality. Now these were mammoth tasks especially when one is in a hurry to take some time off for New Year celebrations. Imagine having a deadline to meet here too. Anyway, I hurriedly got along with it. Thankfully we had already done a photo session of that place earlier, anticipating this schedule. Packing up took a lot of time and before that I also had to finish of the perishable items. So I decided I would make Aloo Ke Paranthe to at least finish of the atta and the potatoes. Besides, we deserved some sort of a New Year treat :P. P & R had already done their bit of packing, cleaning and even inspection. So they came to help me. Here it would enlighten one to know that both P & R are guys and you know how they are in matters of the tummy. They both came to check out how I was doing and of course decided to help me out. I deftly made hot and crisp Aloo ke paranthe with extra ghee (in an effort to finish it off, nothing else) as if that’s what I had been doing all my life, while these two tried to clean up the place and also disposed off the garbage (that was really sweet of them). Of course, they made it a point to rub it in too. I fed them with a lot of paranthas in an attempt to show them my gratitude. Not only were they helping me with my stuff, they were also helping me empty out my kitchen :-). We were all on a high since we had finally got the chance to go and enjoy ourselves and moreover we were having hot n sumptuous Desi Ghee wale Aloo ke paranthe in *Tokyo*, which was something totally unheard of, at least in our restricted, poverty-stricken desi circles.
So the itinerary had already been chalked out by who else but yours truly. I had asked a couple of Japanese colleagues about what we could do on New Years Eve and I was told that there are 2 things we could do. We could either go to a Buddhist temple, chant through the night and be blessed by the holy sunrise (which would thaw us), the next morning or we could go to a particular street in Tokyo called the Tokyo Millenario and check it out. Supposedly it looks absolutely heavenly and breathtaking. There’s some lighting done on the street and lots of crowds throng to see this. Needless to say, that we were not inclined to spend the whole night in a temple, waiting for sunrise. So we chose option#2. We also decided that we would go to Roppongee after that. Here I must add, that Roppongee is a rather cosmopolitan place especially for Japan. We had already been there once and for the first time saw a place in Japan which had a large number of non-Japanease population rather than a Japanese one. That place is full of pubs, hard rock cafe’s, Karaoke Bars, strip clubs.. err you get the picture. In other words it was a rather hep place and it also offered a lot of variety in terms of food and entertainment.
Our plan was to check out Tokyo Millenario and and then set off to Roppongee. We would spend the whole night in Roppongee and then go to Akhiabara which is the place where all Desis buy their electronic stuff from. This place has its sales on special occassions, New Year being one of them. We were aware that a throwaway sale (it really is that) is on from the 1st of Jan and what better way to join the queue there than going straight from Roppongee. Here I must add, that all desis there (and this means Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Indians, Srilankans and Nepalese) queue up at the place much before sunrise in true desi style. Need I explain more! So having decided the schedule, we set out at around 10:30pm for our first halt – Tokyo Millenario. My japanese colleague had very helpfully given me the printout of a map of that area on which he highlighted the streets and wrote their names in english and also told me how to get there. (Those guys go out of their way to help ppl). Now it had been quite a while since we had devoured the Aloo Paranthe and both P & R were desperately searching for the ‘real stuff’ (read booze). We checked out all convenience stores after getting off at Tokyo station, but the lord had other designs for us. Not even a single store had anything of their interest coz it was all sold out! We didn’t have any contingency plan for this situ. Finally they managed to get some fruit beer from somewhere and decided to make do with a can each and wash it down with a doughnut. I also had a sandwich or something and just as we were getting out of the store, we saw humungous crowds running in a particular direction. Panic struck us as we wondered what was wrong, but then a brain wave made us realise that they might be going to watch the ethereal Tokyo Millenario. As was evident, we also mingled with the crowd and started rushing in that direction. After some time we saw that there wasn’t just that trail of ppl, in fact ppl seemed to be pouring from every nook, corner, alley and there was a lot of police to control the movement. There were some traffic lights for this heavy traffic! Imagine a number of lanes of *ppl* moving based on the traffic lights, the way we do with vehicles! Till this time we were sure that this mad crowd was definitely heading for something big and saw the crowds merging into a particular street after some time. But even though the crowds were merging somewhere, we were just not able to fathom the end point, what lay ahead .. the street which was supposed to get lit up at 12. It was highly amazing to see that inspite of the size of the crowd, it was still quite a tranquil affair and nobody was panicking, screaming, breaking out of the line or generally creating a ruckus. Comparatively Indian crowds have never been tame.
Suddenly the clock struck 12! Contrary to what one would expect, there was no commotion in the crowd.. people didnt even bother to wish those around them..anyhow we wished each other, feeling silly that we have entered the new year just standing in a stagnant crowd! As we progressed further, suddenly everybody was out with their camera cell phones and going clickety click. ( a very common thing in Japan). We could see some lights in the distance but nothing much. Finally apna number bhee aaya, we also managed to enter that street which had rows and rows of arches covered with coloured lights and the strains of some sad mournful western classical music (it almost sounded like someone’s death ceremony instead of new years) reached our ears. Both P & R were completely disgusted by then. The Tokyo millenario had turned out to be a damp squib and they had definitely seen better lightworks in our desi weddings itself.
We decided to chuck it and reach Roppongee. We also had plans to eat there itself. Roppongee was a very different scene altogether. The streets were full of people and litter!! This was something quite amazing since Japan is a really clean place and no one litters around. May be New Years was an exception. But there were more exceptions than this. Instead of a savvy cosmopolitan crowd, we saw our own desis on every galli, nukkad, drinking away to glory and mouthing punjabi obscenities by the dozen. Khair, P & R continued with their search for the ‘real thing’. We scanned almost all stores, but by that time (2am) nothing was left. I was tired of their futile search and was hungry, but P & R were just not willing to start their day without any booze. Finally we entered another store, where they managed to find some Bacardi. I was too disgusted to enter the store and hovered around the entrance. Suddenly some unknown desi guy came upto me and wished me ‘Happy New Year’. Not in a mood to pick on something afresh, I also responded with the same. That chap went inside the store and as luck would have it, came out with P & R. To his amazement when I started coaxing P & R to hurry up, he realised that I was with them. One should have seen his face as he told P & R that he had thought I was spanish and was surprised to learn that I was a desi too. Somehow P & R managed to get rid of this guy who was quite unwilling to leave us. Now came the booze party. On not finding anything smaller, P & R had purchased a 1 ltr bottle of Rum! They had also bought 2 small coke bottles to dilute it (which were definitely not enough). I wanted to break the bottle on their head itself as they were *still* not willing to go for a meal. They wanted to ‘enjoy’ their drink first. The booze party started on the street itself, like all the other desi groups hanging around that place. Obviously these guys were not able to finish it and wanted assistance from me. I was also continuously reminded of how cold it was and how some sips would keep me warm. I had a couple of sips (neat). Itne mein ek aur desi jee hum logon ko milne aaye. He came upto us and wanted to shake everyones hands and wish them new years. Complied with this drunk blithering idiots wishes too. P & R were dead sure, that he must have placed a bet with his gang that he would accost us and shake hands with me or something. By this time, I was not willing to listen to any other excuse for not going for our dinner.
We set out for a particular Thai Restaurant there. By the time we reached that building, I could make out that both P & R were quite drunk and were being quite funny. I was also feeling woozy as I had managed to fill in a lot. Anyhow, somehow managed to drag these two upto the 14th floor of the building only to be informed that the restaurant had closed. We had spotted a Hard Rock Cafe somewhere and set out for that. When we reached there, it was already 4:15am and the last order was at 4am. With no other resorts left to us, we set out for Mc Donalds. By this time, P was going on thanking me (repeatedly) for getting him there and how he was having the best time of his life. I was also thanked for being his true buddy (huh?). R was quite happy with the way things were and somehow he had probably started thinking he was a plane or something. He spread his arms and ran across the streets saying, ‘I LOVE JAPAN, JAPAN IS REALLY GREAT!’. He even tried his hand at a somersault and fell flat on his face. Needless to say, all this was attracting a lot of attention. P was slightly more sober than R. We managed to get to Mc Donalds somehow, where R told the attendent at the counter, ‘Give the lady what she wants, I have a million dollars’, pointing at me while making this claim. The attendent was all smiles and took our order. God knows what these ppl ordered but I wanted a hot chocolate for myself. I didn’t feel hungry anymore. When the stuff came, R tried to feed me with some French fries by stuffing them into my mouth! I kept cajoling R to come in ‘hosh’. R was literally ‘jhooming’ and P had somehow sobered up seeing that R was all out of control. R kept on with his jabber and now it was his turn to thank me. He also started telling all onlookers how good this cute li’l girl (me!!!) is. He even proceeded to pull my cheeks! Now *that* did it, but I was feeling quite sickly by this time to give R a good retort and just managed to push him away. We decided, it was time to make a move and went to the station.
Even though I wont be able to highlight the train system in Japan in this blog, I would like to mention that one has to buy tickets there, which are sensed by magnetic detectors and then a person is allowed to pass through. If someone however doesn’t do this, small obstructions suddenly jut out to prevent the person from getting through to the platforms. On this particular day, there was just no stopping anyone, and everyone pushed there way through the obstructions! Yet another desi, came up to me and asked my name. I was quite taken aback at this attitude and before I could give him a ‘what’s ur problem look’, R had already told him my name. ‘This cute little girl is my best friend’, he added. Thankfully that guy introduced himself and after getting a cold shoulder from me and funny answers from R, he made a hasty exit. We finally managed to find some suitable place and sat down on the steps there as I was not feeling too well. Suddenly I started feeling really vomitish. Before I knew it, I had started puking! P quickly zapped back into ‘hosh’ and took me to the ladies restroom while he waited outside. I emptied out whatever little I had managed to eat and felt *so* sickly, I couldn’t believe it. Somehow I managed to wash up but couldn’t help feeling rather weak and ill. Some passerby asked if I needed help, but I declined. Due to so much coughing, somehow one of my earings came loose and fell into a drain nearby. On seeing my face in the mirror, I looked like a nightmare, hair all strewn, lipstick all washed out and looking like something the cat dragged in. I managed to drag myself to the loo and hardly had I entered it, when I heard P calling out my name! I snapped back to my senses wondering what he was doing in the ladies restroom! I assured him that I was ok. He had come inside looking for me cause I had taken so long and he was thinking I might have fainted somewhere.
After I went out I was informed by P that R was also somewhere in the mens room. Feeling too tired and ill I sat down on the floor, with P settling beside me. Although I wasn’t sleepy, I closed my eyes. Hardly a few minutes passed by when I heard someone talking to P about me!! I was upto my throat with that typical desi attitude and didn’t bother to even open my eyes. ‘Is she your sister?’, I heard that guy asking P and also why I was sitting there with my eyes shut. P gave him some info to mull upon. I heard that he was a Pakistani guy. ‘Desis will always be the same everywhere’, I thought. Before long, he was on his way, of course *after* wishing us a happy new year. It was quite some time and R was still in the men’s room. P told me that he was going to look for him there and now I was alone to fend myself from anymore drunk desis. I sat with my eyes open this time and tried to look as menacing as possible. Soon P returned with the news that R had passed out in the restroom itself and was in a bad state.. bad enough to not know what was happening and to not even get up. He had even misplaced his bag somewhere which contained his passport, but thankfully P found it on some peg in the restroom. By now P was completely in control and decided that he would leave me back to the hotel and we would skip the Akhiabara sale. The vision of a hot bath and a warm bed was too tempting to resist, but then I recalled my sisters ‘farmaish’ for an SLR. So I decided that I would go ahead with the sale. I was feeling much better now, but R was indisposed and we didnt know what to do. P made the weird decision of leaving him there only. He figured that once he’ll come back to his senses, he would get back himself, while we could carry on. Despite my objections, this is what we did. We left R in the restroom and went to Akhiabara. We reached there at 6am thinking we would be the first ones in the queue. To our dismay, the queue was already spiralling down the street and we were somewhere quite in the end. It was *so* cold, that my limbs were going numb. To warm up our bodies, we started jogging on the spot and running etc. But that didn’t really generate much kinetic energy to keep us warm. The store was to open at 10am! Imagine the piteous state we were in. Finally the clock struck 10 and we got in. But by the time we got in ( people are supposed to enter 1 by 1 in the order of the queue and make purchases), the items on sale had already been sold out. It was 12pm on 1st Jan by the time we got home. I finally took a hot bath and crashed, vowing never to have any rum again. Even the rum chocolates in my room nauseated me now. All in all, the whole experience was quite enjoyable (apart from being troublesome), especially R’s antics. He got back safe and sound. Some japanese person found him in that inebriated state and seated him in some appropriate train to get back. The 3 of us have a good time whenever we recollect the New year party we had.
Oh and did I mention, this year also I am gonna be sitting in bed watching some jerks histrionics on TV. Maybe it’s not so bad after all. Happy New Year!!