Tribal Rites
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Being a clannish, camera-shy sort of place, the best parties tend to be purdah events in private homes. Delhi thinks safety lies in small numbers (25 guests are a crowd) and staunchly upholds discretion as the better part of valour (the curtains are tightly drawn before succulent bites of gossip are offered as canapes). It takes years for the spirit of charity to enter friendships, and decades before a party is institutionalised as a sacred rite.

For 20 years or more, the unmissable New Year's Eve party was the open house hosted by journalists Romesh and Raj Thapar in their large home filled with books and art treasures. Everyone from cabinet ministers to cantonment dowagers came. Abu Abraham drew the witty posters, and every age-group and ideology was represented making whopee on the dance floor in the circular marble hall. Like ritual priests, Romesh and his sister Romila Thapar doled out a deadly-delicious hot punch from two porcelain libation vessels. Even the gatecrashers were amusing—the most remarkable sight one year was David Lean's and Zandra Rhodes' white, pink and green mops bobbing above the green, pink and white Chinese punchbowls.

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