“This is not how I had wanted my new year’s eve to be,” I sighed as I sipped the cocktail. I had carefully chalked a perfect plan for the night— a sumptuous dinner cooked by myself, after which I could snuggle in my cosy bed with a cup of hot chai and a perfect movie ( or a rerun of F.R.I.E.N.D.S if nothing worked out).
As I ruminate the predicament I was stuck in, I was able to make out the words of the DJ over the blaring noise, stating that the dance was about to begin. I checked my watch and found that it was only 10 PM which meant I had to be locked up for a minimum of two more hours.
I decided to take a stroll on the lawn outside and as I stepped out, I couldn’t help but admire the beauty of the venue. With the commencement of the dance, people had crowded the dance floor and the bar was visibly empty.
The bartender was juggling the glasses and mixing the drinks in a smooth and swift motion. I was amazed by his skills and easy composure. Without taking my eyes off his actions, I walked closer to observe him.
He had finished serving and as I lifted my head I caught him staring at me. That was when I realised that I had been gawking at him for a long time. He whispered something to his coworker and walked towards me.
“Oh my god! I’m screwed. How do I get out of this?” I wondered.
“Hi, do I know you?” he asked.
“Hi. Umm. No,” I replied. “Umm. You were wonderful with the glasses,” I added quickly.
“Oh, that…er… Thank you,” he smiled.
I relaxed a little and spoke, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare at you. It was just I was mesmerised by the ease with which you handled them. You are definitely a pro.”
He smiled wider. “I am flattered. Thank you again. Would you like to get some drinks?”
“Nah! Drinks are not my forte. I just came out for some fresh air,” I replied.
“You must be kidding,” he said and noticed my grave look . “Are you telling me that you are here all alone on New Year’s Eve?” he asked, surprised.
“Ahh… Unfortunately, yes, I am.”
“Yes, I wish I was at home, enjoying solitude as I welcomed the new year,” I shrugged nonchalantly.
He motioned me to move aside as people were walking towards the bar. “Shall we go for a walk?”
“Yeah,” I replied and we started to walk in the direction of the shore.
“So, if you hate this party so much, why are you here?” he asked.
“I am the marketing head of the advertising firm that is sponsoring this event. I had planned to go home and spend the new year with my family which got cancelled due to work schedule. But today afternoon, I had almost completed my work and planned a quiet evening for myself.
Our CEO was to attend this event, but he had some last-minute programs,” I rolled my eyes and noticed him listening with rapt attention. “The event organisers requested someone from our office to be present.
With everyone else going for a vacation, my boss convinced me and my colleague and that is how I ended up here. However, my colleague seems to be enjoying the event. She is on the dance floor now.”
“Oh that is bad,” he shook his head. We were silent for a moment when I asked, “I have been talking about myself. So tell me about you. Though I have to admit you are too good looking for a barkeeper,” I blushed as I asked.
He cocked an eyebrow as he asked, “Are you mocking me?”
“What? No…No,” I protested.
“Alright. I am an engineer by profession and quit my job exactly a year ago. I fulfilled my dream of travelling to all the states of India and this is my last stop.”
“That is awesome. Have you been travelling alone?” I asked curiously.
“Yes. I have not only been travelling but also trying my hand at odd jobs — from a dabbawala to selling local goods to bartending. Every job has given me a new experience that I will cherish all my life.
I have met people from all walks of life and learned life lessons. This journey has been an amazing one, but I still feel something amiss,” he paused.
We had reached the shore and the music from the dance floor was distant and the only sound we heard was the soft crashing of waves.
“But, why did you leave your job?”
“In pursuit of happiness. No. Not the movie. I was growing restless with my office job. Hence, I decided to go in search of my true calling.”
“Haven’t you been home? Don’t your parents miss you?”
“They do. But, they are currently shuttling between countries to look after grandchildren. They also know how determined I can be,” he said.
“But, what plagues me is I have not found an answer yet,” he spoke softly.
“Maybe, you are searching in the wrong place,” I replied.
“Happiness is a state of mind and not of the surroundings. It differs from person to person. For a child, getting a toy is happiness whereas for our grandparents spending time with us is happiness. You are searching for it elsewhere, but I think you should seek it within yourselves. Happiness can be found in the darkest of times…”
“Only if one remembers to turn on the light,” he completed.
I was glad he was a potterhead too. Both of us spoke for a while.
“Thank you. I needed to hear this. You have opened up a new perspective for me.”
I smiled, “My pleasure. And do meet your parents. They may not tell you, but they will be missing you.”
“Yes, I am leaving home tomorrow,” he grinned wide, his smile reaching his eyes and a dimple forming on his right cheek.
Precisely at that moment, fireworks went off in the sky.
“Happy New Year,” we spoke at the same time.
“I should thank your boss for sending you to this event,” he said as we walked back.
“Yeah, I guess it did not end up bad. I will find my friend and head back home.”
I took the lead towards the makeshift stage.
“Hey what’s your name?” he called out.
I turned back and smiled and continued walking.