We were 13 of us - nomads of the night - gathered on my terrace by the Qutub Minar last Saturday to take in the Spring air and the canopy of night while we sipped on our vodka, rum or caju feni. Yes, this was a Goan evening I really wanted to have, having arrived on the Monday of that week from Goa - with sorpotel, bebinca and a bunch of Goa bananas from the Vasco market.
It was also Valentine's Day -14 February - which happened to fall on a Saturday. As I mused over my guests I realised we were all on the same page in life. We were all professionals, were passionate about what we were doing, and loved the finer life. We came from different backgrounds and spiritual moorings - and yes all of us had come to Delhi to work, and stayed on. Some for a few years, some (like me) for 9-10 years. And most of us were single. I wanted us to have a place to go to if some of us felt lonely in the city on V- day.
It was a heady mix for us, some of whom had travelled across Delhi at night to be there to make a special effort to mark the day with their presence. There was intimate poetry being read out and my classical guitar tutor from Mizoram obliged by playing 'Asturias' and Bach later. Alex the chef - 'I am the oldest living Goan in Delhi' - made a chicken xacuti to die for.
Put it down to the number 13 or to the magic of the night, I was touched by a strange energy that evening. A new resplendence grew in me to take my classical guitar more seriously. I have now started practising in earnest - and am enjoying it immensely. Seeing so many fulfilled lives was a commentary on my own life and the path I was on. One was into theatre; another's poems were just published by the Sahitya Akademi ; a bunch of us were editors with a leading educational publisher; a couple with the UN; and even a painter who was due to exhibit in Scotland in March. This was creative fusion at its best.
Many asked me the reason I was hosting the dinner. I just said 'Because I am in tune with myself.' That did not seem to be a good enough reason for there were umpteen last minute drop-outs with frantic sms's asking to be excused. Some who did not show up neither sms'd or called. But I learnt about life and people.
I had invited about 40, catered for 25 and played host to 13. But I grew vastly in confidence from the experience of organising the dinner singlehandedly and making my own music of the spheres with those whom I could hang out with. Those who were not there were represented by the Venus star which hung magnificently low in the northern horizon.
On a flight back from Goa I was sitting beside someone who was buried in a copy of The Thirteenth Apostle by Michel Benoit (Alma Books, 2007). The name fascinated me. The title too. It stood for so many things in its iconoclasm. It also underlined the iron hold of conventional wisdom i.e. there were only 12 apostles of Jesus. Maybe it takes 13 to make a difference. I was the 14th person that night on the 14th of February. The aura holds us all in thrall. Still.
It doesn't need numbers to move you. I had hosted such terrace do's in the past and had ended up quite exhausted. This time I was determined to enjoy myself as well. And it worked. I guess the intensity I bring to my life is shared by all who came. The energy of having us all together, literally on the same roof, only enhanced that conviction.
As I cleared up the lonely terrace it was 2 a.m. But I was not done yet. I flicked on the TV and was riveted to Shall We Dance (2004) where silver-haired Richard Gere romances the lithe and firm Jennifer Lopez as she puts him through the waltz and the tango among others. There's hell to pay with the neurotic wife played to a tee by Susan Sarandon back home. Gere's return to grace was far too contrived, I thought - but I only wish the 13 of us and me had danced on the terrace with the superb Latin tracks we played on a hiccupping CD system. We even had a partner for each person!
I went to sleep at 4, but somewhere between today and tomorrow I met my soul.