Of late, all my nights have become a haze of jumbled voices, uttering every form of profanity, filled with uneasy, drunken laughter, as I watch through rising clouds of cigarette smoke.
I don't know how I could have been so naive. Till two weeks ago, I honestly believed that a valfi was a time for memories and laughter, for honesty and closure. But this year as I watched closely for the first time, all my little illusions shattered one by one. I watched as people brought out the character flaws of their friends -things they disliked about each other but never had the courage to point out- disguised them clumsily as jokes and read them out into a microphone, on a stage, for all the world to hear. I watched as they spoke disrespectfully of friends and used words I had never heard of before and wish I could never hear again. I sat through many readings trying hard not to listen, too cowardly, too unsure, to get up and leave.
I like my illusions, I don't want to lose them. I like to believe that I would never judge anyone on the basis of three pages written about them by their drunken friends, but sometimes, I can't help but wonder if there isn't a grain of truth behind some smutty tale. As I spend more time here, as I listen and observe, I'm frightened at my own growing cynicism.
Of course valfis like I always imagined exist too. I like to think my own was one such. It was 9:30 am on a weekday morning and we had all been in our chiffon sarees and heavy jewelery for over 12 hours. We had spent the night reading, reminiscing, laughing, blushing and crying. The morning was quiet, the sun shone, but the terrace hadn't yet turned uncomfortably warm. I was surrounded by people I loved and respected. I couldn't have asked for more.
So it is that I am able to fight off the romance of an overpowering cynicism and still preserve a shred of my old naivety. Some illusions must be preserved. I still need something to believe in.