Humans of Diwali Taash Party


Humans of Diwali Taash Party

Illustration: Sushant Ahire / Arré

Every year at the dawn of winter, Indians get together to celebrate Diwali, to commemorate the return of lord Ram and avail awesome deals on Flipkart and Amazon. Alongside diyas, smog, kaju katli and clothes from the 1900s, my favourite Diwali tradition is the taash party, especially the ones in Punjabi Delhi. This is where the already maniacal exhibitionism of class is injected with steroids.

For most men in a sherwani, the taash party is another dick-measuring contest – and you can win it either by having three aces in a hand or weighing down your wife in diamonds. But aside from this stereotype, there are other humans thanks to whom, an ordinary Diwali taash party is elevated to an anthropology field trip.

1) The Goodwill Hunter

The Goodwill Hunter is like that friend you don’t meet all year, but on your birthday party, he presents himself without fail to drink your alcohol. Goodwill Hunters operate in the shadows, surveying the landscape to figure out who is on an unusual hot streak and quickly slide up to them by being their personal cheerleader and therefore making it obligatory on the part of the winner to fork out some high-value tokens aka “Goodwill”, to keep the luck going. The only skill that this creature requires to succeed, is the willing ear of the top dog at the game. In political circles it’s known as pulling a Jay Shah or a Robert Vadra.

2) The Blind Sider

At every cards table, is a person sitting on a side with a wry smile, running their fingers around a glass of whisky, wallowing in the unsuspecting carnage they are about to unleash upon the world. They are the wild cards of every cards table – the person who always plays blind and gets very offended when you tell him that three blind rounds are over and now he must see his card. This person then sees his cards and doubles the table and you – even though you are holding a proper flush – shrink away in fear. He then wins on a Jack. Just like that one showboat uncle in every building who lights a cracker in his hand and throws it out at the last moment, the Blind Sider also believes in taking a disproportionate amount of risk based on very little logic. Unfortunately, it almost always pays off.

3) Winner Winner Butter Chicken Dinner

“There are two kinds of people in this world, Bulleya: Those who always get good cards, and those who are fucked.” – Baba Bulleh Shah

In groups which reconvene for their annual taash parties, there is one person who always wins and manages somehow to be smug yet humble about it. He will smile winningly and be so nice about taking your money that even hating him feels criminal, like asking someone to hate on a video of Justin Trudeau playing with pandas. One of my childhood friends is this nice dude who I love, but when it comes cards, he empties my butter chicken fund, steals my girlfriend, and spits on my wavering confidence. Every year. Again and again. For these people, as for Batman, we are just jokers for entertainment. The rustic ritual of their perpetual winning is a sight more deflating than the one we feel when we see a Tiger Shroff movie poster. It’s a pain more searing than seeing your ex becoming hot and a blooper reel more deflating than Rahul Gandhi’s life.

“There are two kinds of people in this world, Bulleya: Those who always get good cards, and those who are fucked.”

4) The Offended Aunty

We all know her. She’s basically got a gambling habit but has not got the memo that Diwali taash is mainly for fun. She takes her game so seriously that any kind of tomfoolery, joking, creative variation pisses her off monumentally. She’s basically Amitabh Bachchan from Mohabbatein, doesn’t take well to any sort of change and if she accidently smiled, the world would come to an end. She has been in the card-playing business for decades, having played various tournaments through the years during festivals and kitty parties. Fuck the celebrations and spirit of fun and comradery, she means real business and is out there to win.

5) The “Who is that?”

There is always that one person at every taash party who no one knows. He’s the third cousin of your aunt’s step daughter’s friend’s school teacher who showed up at your Diwali party cos that’s just how Indians party. This guy knows one person in the party and that becomes his access to the card games. He’s the street-smart dude who knows the tricks and ends up bankrupting the entire lot while everyone is thinking the same thing under their breath “Who the fuck is that, anyway?”

6) The Teetotaller

The teetotaller is the guy at the party everyone hates for finishing off the chakna. If committing that sin weren’t enough, he ends up narrating the stupid hands that others played while they were drunk over the years. He is the sadist who takes advantage of the situation and performs power moves like recording embarrassing videos which he will put up on social media just when you are beginning to feel safe about the fact that everyone has forgotten about how you removed your shirt and gyrated against the speakers. He is the annoying family friend you would never think of inviting, but one who would happily commit the cardinal sin of getting parents involved, exhibiting less self-awareness than a tea pot.

Thanks to him and the other humans of the Diwali taash party, it always turns into the kind of night where you pause in the middle of a game in which you are getting bankrupted and shitfaced and ask yourself: Why the fuck do I do this every year?

The answer never comes, but the next Diwali does. And you’re back at the table, bleeding cash and your peace of mind in this new old-age dick-measuring contest. In this House of Cards, everyone is a winner but you.