Friday night. The DJ’s been told a law firm has booked the place. Just play whatever they want and don’t be too much of an artist. Corporate clients are hard to come by these days. He understands perfectly. Stiff neckties, high heels and cocktails. Soft instrumental to start with, old-school Bollywood numbers later. He queues up 20 songs and arranges to steal breaks with his waiter friends every half hour.
The cocktail bar was booked from 8.00 to 12.00 but the first hour goes by without a soul in sight. At 9.30 p.m., four youngsters make an appearance in unseemly clothes. This is going better than expected, the DJ congratulates himself. A couple more hours till pack up and he’ll have earned a good day’s pay for doing nothing.
One breaks away from the four and takes the centre of the floor. She gives him a lasting look, then bolts into action, thumping to an inaudible beat at lightning speed, electricity coursing through her body. He blinks in shock, fumbles to find something to keep up.
As the music rises to the ceiling, the door opens once again. Almost on cue, troops pour in. The bar metamorphoses into a living thing. Animated embraces, loud laughter, waterfalls into glasses. He can hardly register it.
She dances like one possessed, unaffected by the chaos around her. Her annual bonus came through this morning. It was the highest in her team. She feels like this party has been thrown for her. She can see amused faces in the shadows but she doesn’t care what they’re thinking. Whatever it is, it can wait till tomorrow. Because tomorrow, she will still be the highest paid associate in her team. Without a thought in her head, she drags them all to the floor.
They shake their heads dismissively, put on reluctant smiles, but allow themselves to be dragged. The show of restraint is for the onlookers. It must be known that they would never, ever, dance at a party such as this of their own volition. That would be wild and completely unhinged. But they’ve been foot-tapping secretly. As they step beneath the canopy of bright lights, their limbs betray them. Wild and unhinged, the gyrations are uncontrollable.
Within minutes, the floor is overcome with robots, snake-charmers, chickens. A bewildered DJ strains to keep up – song after song, loop after loop – with this moving, insatiable monster of energy. It is the strangest sight he has ever seen. Everyone has a song request and nobody can wait. They must all be placated, all at once, because – they will have him know – they’re all lawyers.
Two lone exceptions observe this scene from a distance like the DJ, but with far more detachment.
One of them is a first-year associate whose sobriety returned rather abruptly the moment he realised he’d made a spectacle of himself. He had a little too much, too quickly in the part-nervousness, part-excitement of attending his first office party ever. Shortly afterwards, he earnestly confessed that he hero-worshipped his boss, to his boss, in full public view, while the latter tried many a courteous deflection to downplay the scene in vain as the crowd around them grew bigger. Eventually, she cut him off curtly and disappeared giggling with the other Partners.
The other, is the master of ceremonies. The man who built this 200-strong army wreaking havoc in the bar. He is convinced he still has some great dance moves, and can outstrip each one of them at the bottle. But he’d rather not get into it. He wants to get home at a reasonable hour and catch his Saturday morning golf-game with the guys at the club. But he lingers on, because such nights have a special place in his heart. They are, after all, a celebration of how far they’ve come. From a self-conscious team of five with nothing but big dreams to intoxicate their spirits to this successful multitude without a care in the world.
Maybe just one drink then, and he’ll make a quick exit.
The night jingles on. Mr DJ is cajoled, begged, bribed, and eventually threatened into playing for a while after 12.00 a.m. Then a while longer. Just a little while. At 2.00 a.m. he finally manages to slip out inconspicuously, leaving the console in auto-mode. Once outside, he races down the road towards the parking lot without looking back, arms flailing like a madman in the dead of the night.
The pub shuts an hour later under pressure from the local cops, leaving the troops restless like bees without a honeycomb. They eventually settle on the residence of a Partner who lives nearby.
Noon comes too soon the following day. Ms. well-paid-associate opens her eyes in a strange house on a strange couch, jumps up like a singed cat and disappears after repeated apologies to her hosts: the hospitable Partner and his scowling wife. The first-year opens his eyes in his own bed but quickly shuts them tightly, hoping to somehow erase the memory of last night. His boss at that very moment is happily narrating the confessions of her secret admirer to an amused family table over lunch. In another part of the city, the master of ceremonies is sulking behind a newspaper, having missed his morning game of golf.
A thousand calls are made, a thousand stories exchanged, with a thousand different endings. An entire weekend is spent recovering from the office party.
On Monday, the law firm opens at 10.00 am as usual, as if nothing ever happened.