Tuesday, 14 August 2007


Setting: Suburban Mumbai

Occasion: Weekend Party

It is suburban Mumbai, indeed. A gang of middle-aged friends are calling each other on the phone.

“Did you hear about it? Were you invited?” she asks.

“Oh yeah, of course, but something strange about it na?” her friend answers.

“What does it mean anyway? I really fail to understand”

“Oh that, I just asked her directly, you know, no shame in that. She claims that it means Bring Your Own Booze. What kind of party is that?”

“That’s ridiculous, what use is the host if we have to bring the booze ourselves..”

“Hey dude, did you hear about that, BYOB thing”

“Yeah sure, thought it would be fun, what do you think?”

“I don’t know, I feel OK about it, but my wife is quite upset”

“In a way it seems like a let down, you know, I don’t know what they are thinking, does it mean they really will not have anything to drink, that each of us walks in with our own thing?”

“By the way do we need to bring our own food as well?”

“That’s funny, I hope it does not come to that! In that case I might as well stay put at home”

“What about ice?”

“I think three months away in the US does not allow people to come and impose on others like this, if you want to host a party, host one the proper way, that’s what I say”


The day of the much-talked about party arrives. The hosts are seen looking relaxed and gliding around the room, well-dressed, smiling.

A lady guest is sweating profusely as she oversees her contribution – a large dish of Aviyal, a southern dish with a distinct flavour of coconuts and curd (the label reads, helpfully). She has brought the cook and a maid, just in case there are emergency repairs to be made. The dish contrasts strongly with the food provided by the hosts, but our lady seems to be oblivious to this.

A couple arrive late, they look harried. They have driven in a large car, large enough to accommodate the full course meal they have had catered. They also contribute three waiters dressed equally in white and black, with red bow-ties. The waiters hang around for a few minutes, find that no one particularly is expecting anything from them, and go around to the back, loosen their ties and sit around, smoking and talking desultorily.

A husband-wife pair that have arrived earlier, with a bottle of expensive wine (for themselves to sip at), and a bouquet of flowers (because the store was selling it), look at all the hungama, and exit furtively, coming back a half hour later laden with sweets of every description. A casual observer may be tempted to think that the sweet-shop had to close for the day after their visit.

Everyone eats too much, everyone is dissatisfied at the end of it. Even the extraordinarily large amount of alcohol that is consumed does nothing to improve the mood. Factions are quickly formed based on who eats what and comments flit back and forth, with ill-concealed jealousy. The original food of the party goes unnoticed amid the fanfare of the guest’s contributions. A huge amount of food goes to waste. The hired helpers laugh secretly at their employers, eat to their heart’s content, and go home when they feel sure no one will miss them.

Thus the concept of Bring Your Own Anything met its untimely death in Mumbai, creating in its wake an enormous amount of excitement, resentment, and malicious gossip (even more than usual). In the next party, the hosts felt obliged, sort of to get people back in the mood for parties after the BYOB disaster, to give personalized napkins, cameras, and make-up kits in addition to food, wine, drinks, snacks, and so on of every description under the sun.


SrgntPepper said...

i guess india is the land of atithi devo bhava.

also, i'd think the a combination of the following will all contribute to BYOB failure to take off :
1. limited choice of alcohol
2. limited choice of packing (no 6 pack or cans)
3. relatively homogeneous tastes (KF or Fosters right?)
4. the ignominy of buying booze from a sleazy wine shop, and then carring it around in black plastic bags and finally
5. this is the land of the atithi devo bhava. how dare you expects the guests to bring anything.

i had once sent out an invite for dinner, in fact was a housewarming thing, and mentioned (i thought jokingly) that becus i had spent a lot of money on the home renovation, the dinner would cost 500 bucks a pop. there were atleast 3 people who called me to say how dare i charge 'em money.! may be, it says a lot about me.

kbpm said...

ha ha srgntpepper, 500 bucks a bit pricey dont you think?
in a way though, even if we accepted a BYOB thing (some of us may prefer non-alcoholic aam ras, for e.g., so there are options... and some enterprising ones may discover Vodka Jello), i am sure it would be extremely competitive.... which would , of course, be unbearable for the likes of me.

SrgntPepper said...

pricey?! hey atleast it wasnt a BYOB! :)
and disagree with you on the competition. see byob lets you get what you want to drink no? that way you should be happier, you dont have to appreciate someone else's lovingly made rooh afza concoction.

/* btw, just realised i didnt edit my post right, the "atithi devo bhava" thought got repeated. so in the future, pls feel free to be editing for grammar or just common sense. */