She was late after work and hurried home to get ready for her friend’s birthday party. She knew most of the crowd though of late there had been more new people being added to the usual jing bang. The additional newbies were a mix of the out and about of Colombo and those who were under the radar by choice.
She was in two minds about what to wear – casual elegant or something a bit more dressy or just jeans and a top. She opted for the jeans and dressy top simply coz she wanted to be comfortable and was in no mood to be flouting a dress and heels. She was also a bit concerned about the trishaw she was riding in – she did not want the guy to have a heart attack with some scandalous clothing (i.e. some leg showing) so this was safe and comfortable. She did her eyes carefully – she always did her eyes and knew they looked good. She opted for a red lipstick and some dangly earrings and felt she was fine. Not elegant but not exactly casual either. Something in between. She sprayed on her designer perfume, brushed her hair with its red highlights and headed off in a rush.
She got to Shani’s place when things were just getting in the swing. She walked in to be greeted by Shani and gave her gift and then proceeded to wander around looking for familiar faces. This was the awkward part as some looked at her like she was some bug, others just smiled briefly and most just ignored. She was certainly no fashion sensation – not like she cared. She knew she looked better than most and maybe it was this casual arrogance that led her to be rather lax with the way she dressed on occasion. She knew when to dress up and in what. She hated following trends and this is what she saw amongst most of the people gathered. These days the fashion was tiny dresses in pastel chiffon with humongous heels in nude or dull gold. Ah imagine the discomfort – hold the dress down and make sure you don’t break an ankle. Lol. She did not care. But she noticed of late that even Shani had changed her dress code to be more in line with what every other female in the Hi magazine and at pretentious coffee mornings were wearing. She snorted to herself and made her way to the food. Ah that was one thing you had to give Shani – she always ensured there was super food at her parties. Not the run of the mill junk like hotdogs or pretentious wannabes like canapés. But good solid party food – bouches, éclairs, vol-au-vents, patties, rolls and pinwheel sandwiches. And a solid birthday cake. Ribbon or chocolate with actual butter icing and a thick cake base. None of this cream and cardboard fluff made popular by Gerard Mendis of Hilton fame. Ah such bliss. Nadia greedily piled on her plate and proceeded to look for a place to sit and gorge. She came to a chair facing a couch and saw 3 girls she knew. It was rather comical coz they were all in those tiny chiffon dresses with their thin legs poking out like toothpicks and encased in some high heeled nude sandals. They were also all sitting cross legged with their legs all in the same direction and holding their plates up and daintily nibbling at their food while making small talk. Nadia was slim and tall with a rather box frame and was not dainty by any means. She sat dumbfounded and watched as one of the girls – Sonali who hailed from a very down to earth, solid family – look carefully and daintily nibble at the patty with her fingers outstretched and her expression one of benign idiocy as she listened to the over animated Anu. Honestly – what was this pretense? They all looked comical. Fashion doppelgangers trying to be something – but what? They were obviously shopping from the same store – Monsoon, Zara, Asos or one of those thought Nadiya snidely. She wondered if they discussed what to wear beforehand?
“Three little maids from school are we
Pert as a school girl well can be
Filled to the brim with girlish glee
Three little maids from school”
Nadiya wickedly hummed this in her head. The lack of originality in their appearance and behaviour drove Nadiya nuts. She hated being one of the crowd and most certainly not amongst people like this. Mundane. Boring and with the obvious stamp of nobodies trying to be somebodies. Even the conversation was mundane. She was surprised at Sonali. But then again, Sonali was dating a Muslim boy. Boohoo. She was hoping his rather stalwart family would accept her. Hence the copying and pretense of the friends’ girlfriends. She was hoping to be accepted and embraced. What a lark. And what a waste of time thought Nadiya. Sonali looked awkward and out of place but she was doggedly persevering. Honestly, the lengths people go to, to snag a man. The guys were all friends of old and the girls just came and went with the tide. Some girlfriends, some wives and as time ebbed on, some no more.
Nadiya never fitted in with this crowd and Shani and Rohan understood this. Nadiya had known Shani and Rohan since childhood and they had a grudging respect for her lack of fear in expressing her opinions. Nadiya would never be part of the “gang” unless she dated one of the many guys in there with their many issues. She preferred to meet Shani and Rohan on quiet evenings or during weekends when there were a few other old stalwarts around.
It is these stalwarts that Nadiya desperately sought at the party and was more than thrilled when she happened upon a few. They were certainly not adhering to some unwritten dress code of tiny chiffon dresses and breakneck shoes, but were comfortably clad in what they considered their evening best. Nadiya plonked herself on the couch with them and proceeded to have an animated conversation that revolved from the delicious food to religion, men in society, higher education and back to food again. Ah what a relief. This was the kind of party conversation Nadiya liked to have. Not be in a circle of doppelgangers surreptitiously trying to uphold a standard for God knows whose approval and talking about shopping in Singapore and the 500th trip to Mirissa.
No, this was bliss. Good solid, intellectual conversation. Nadiya was content to gobble her food without worrying about anyone counting the number of calories she input into her system while tsking quietly in their heads. She grinned contently and welcomed Shani who flopped down towards the end of the party and took her shoes off as she did her hostess role and became her old, jolly self. Shani grabbed an éclair she had been resisting all evening and happily stuffed her face. This was how it used to be and this was how it should be. Not this pretentious bunkum façade that people wore when they met others at social gatherings. Here there were no nude heels or put on posture or strutting. Here was a mish mash of cross legged, higgledy piggledy comfort that would’ve earned the disapproval of any Hi magazine wannabe. Here was where “Aney”, “Aiyo” and “bung” and “yako” was acceptable parlance vs. the highly accented “Oh my Gawd” “Oh dear” and “Like seriously?”. Here you were free to be yourself and this Nadiya cherished as did Shani and Rohan. But they were inadvertent players in the game thought Nadiya as she observed Shani. People who play ball (or in this case, golf) to stay alive. Accepted. They were good souls. And this is why their friendship spanned decades. But they were doppelgangers too –in a sense we all are to an extent thought Nadiya, lost in her own world as she took the cab back home. The goodbyes were typically Sri Lankan with a pit stop every step of the way. Now clutching a piece of the ribbon cake Shani had given her, Nadiya mused about these gatherings and thought to herself that she would excuse Shani and Rohan emulating others. But those damn fashion doppelgangers – in chiffon and nude – strutting, posturing and pretending – that was unacceptable!
She snorted as she entered her house and prepared for bed and for the next day and the rat race that she would inevitably join as she headed to her corporate job. A doppelganger herself, she thought wryly, albeit not in the fashion department.