The Banquet

The Banquet

A Chapter by Priya

The elevator slid to a halt in a slow, almost rhythmic, assured manner as maintenance in those sort of high end places was wont to make sure of. As the doors opened, the hallway from the elevator to the room of destination came into view, with its ambience of golden light emanating a fuzzy warmth almost encouraging one to nod off, bathed in the creamy yellow of the hallway. The golden lights spilled over onto the cream walls, and the marbled floor was more than happy to reciprocate the environment with its opalescent reflections, all this supported by the faint jazz heard wafting through the banquet hall, which was our destination. I walked carefully, as the floor appeared the sort on which slipping on seemed eminently possible. The receptionist at the door welcomed us with a smile, and motioned us to proceed on into the room.

 I observed the tastefully placed blue lights scattered around the hall in a delightful pattern, punctuating the otherwise creamy texture. But these punctuations served not as disruptions, but adornments, ornamenting the flow of colour. The blue lights delighted me, as they conformed exactly with the marigolds imprinted on my cream-based schiffon saree. Realization that the room was full of people made me grab the end of my pallu tighter, and wrap the loose end tighter against my hip.I knew the slight discomfiture I now experienced was a necessary bargain to offset the psychological delights of my attire. I had felt like I had come of age when I first wore my saree, gasping as it pressed gently against my body, caressing my contour, like the embrace of a lover whose love was meant to last forever. This overwhelmingly strong sense of emancipation that the saree provided, the gateway to femininity, titillated me, and still did.

 The gloriously soft saree felt like it would slip off any moment, even though I had firmly tucked it into my petticoat, and had wrapped it tightly around me. Tight enough to flaunt any minimal curvature I had. But along with the uncomfortable feeling of walking on high heels, my attire felt like it conspired to unwrap itself at any moment, revealing me in more ways than one. But all that practice in high heels must not go in vain, I reminded myself, and decided to take determined steps to maintain poise. But try as I might, I struggled, ironically, to keep myself synchronous with the lissome movement that characterizes feminine gait. Each few assured steps were followed by clumsy ones, leaving myself appearing to alternate between lithe and almost festinant steps.

Daddy's employer, the coordinator of the fest was engaged in all the boring activities that any celebratory occasion brings. He was helped by a few smartly dressed youth, perhaps sons of other employers. I heaved a sigh of relief noticing I was wearing a saree, and I wasn't required to do such menial work anymore. 

A few moments after we entered, we were countenanced by a very good looking woman in a red silk saree, perhaps in her late thirties, though appearing much younger, flanked by a girl with brilliantly black eyes, that seemed in their depth both finite and infinite. The contours of her face seemed shaped by happiness, as her lips were fixed in a perpetual smile, both innocuous and bewitching at once. The elder woman seemed to recognize my father, as she greeted him "Why hello Mr.Raghav. I'm so glad you made the effort to come along with your lovely family". "Thank you Mrs. Radha", replied my father, while turning to us and adding "This is Mrs.Radha, Mr.Anup's wife". He then turned to Radha and said "This is Lakshmi, my wife, and Deepika, my only daughter". "Oh she looks so lovely, and all grown up, I must say. Priyanka here never heeds my advice to wear ethnic wear. She thinks it wouldn't suit her". I smiled, and I am quite sure I must have blushed too at being addressed a lovely lady, and replied "Oh, thank you so much Auntie". "You are most welcome, sweetie. Please do take a seat. My husband will be down in a short while. Perhaps you would like to meet some of the other women, Lakshmi? The girls can handle themselves, I'm sure", she said. My father had already taken notice of his other colleagues, and had drifted away to share some light hearted moments with them. 

Glancing around the room, I let the skilful elegance of the surroundings sink in. At the centre of the room was a raised platform, presumably a performer's stage, adorned by yet more of the dreamy blue lights at its base, seeming almost to swirl in a balletic fashion. Tables were arranged in a nonchalant manner, yet not too haphazard, and the upholstery seemed as fine as I had ever experienced. I noticed a group of girls adopting faces practiced for occasions where they were required to meet other girls put in similar circumstances. The boys, somewhat lesser in attendance than the girls, seemed to get acquainted fairly quickly as they joined together two sets of tables, intent on making the solemn affair as boisterous as was possible. As old habits die not so quickly, I almost set forth in their direction, before reminding myself I was dressed in a saree, which was not exactly an attire boys would be pleased to wear

Bereft of my family for the immediate short future, and left to the mercy of my attire, I gingerly took a seat away from both the girls and the boys, while yet keeping my saree wrapped around me with the free end of the pallu in front of me, as any demure girl would have to do. And yet, this modesty elated me. The utter normalcy of such a traditional act gave me happiness, as I could find relevance in an abnormal world. I was cut short of my philosophizing because Priyanka ventured to the seat near me and sat down. She was dressed casually in an orange camisole over a black tee, and black jeans. Or perhaps 'casual' was just the way she wanted to be seen, because inspite of her apparent ease, traces of a morning spent decorating oneself were visible. "Hello", she beamed me a smile. Not used to attention by girls, I could only muster a shy smile in return. "Gorgeous saree", she said, stifling a giggle. "Oh thank you so much. You must wear one too. You would be the prettiest woman in this room", I said, immediately regretting my decision to put to words what my mind was thinking. "Aww, thank you. But I don't feel all that grown up yet", she said. "Oh, you will, when you wear one", I winked at her. "But I think you still are the prettiest woman in this room", I continued, though I wished I hadn't. She giggled, and I could then notice a slight reddening of her perfectly formed cheeks. "Thank you so much Deepika", she said. "I hope you don't mind me intruding on your privacy. I saw you sitting alone, and I realized your family just got transferred over here. I thought I might introduce you to my friends", she cheefully continued. I was grateful for this gesture of affection in a foreign place, in an indescribable existence.


© 2012 Priya


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Featured Review

Seriously? This is actually your first shot at fiction? That is absolutely amazing!! I honestly can't wrap my mind around that. This is seriously, seriously, probably the best-written piece of fiction I have ever found on this sight, and I am not kidding. Your imagery is absolutely stunning. I could see every detail of the narrator's inflections. And your vocabulary - wow! I honestly have nothing to critique, and I am probably one of the toughest critiquers (so not a word) around. Please, God, keep writing this!

Posted 8 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

I liked the tone of your opening. Surreal and beautiful. Really good work for a first time. It says something about your natural ability as a writer. So keep writing.

Having said this, I hope you don't mind some pointers to help you fine tune your skill.

Regarding the use of adjectives and metaphors. The rule of thumb that I follow is to only use as much as you need to convey one point. Too much of a good thing can be like stepping before blinding headlights. Sometimes the point can be missed.

It is also ideal to have one paragraph per action/voice/point of view to pace the flow of the story. This ensures better reader immersion.

Overall, nice start. Look forward to reading more of your works. Thanks for sharing.

Posted 4 Years Ago


Priya

3 Years Ago

Thank you :)
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I'll begin by commending your skillful manipulation of visual imagery. I have to admit that I felt a bit disoriented by the onslaught of such extensive description in the beginning, but as you toned down the avalanche of colors and textures and patterns, I eased into your writing very easily.

I always enjoy reading work centering around more ethnically diverse settings. In my area, there are many Asian Indians, and I have attended one of the Indian Festivals here as well, so I immediately recognized the source of such words as "sari," "pallu," and even the names of your characters. You wove together this story's exposition in a way that would allow readers to immediately grasp some knowledge of the situation, which is wonderful - already, your readers know that the narrator is of Asian Indian ethnicity, or at least grew up in the culture, and they can make all sorts of other extrapolations based on the other tidbits of information you place throughout the story.

There's just one thing that was a tripping point for me - structure of dialogue. I saw your note that this is your first attempt at fiction, and I certainly don't hold this oversight against you, and neither will many others. It's a good idea, however, to learn quickly the rules of dialogue structure and whatnot; proper dialogue construction will augment the readability and flow of your writing.

For instance, you have all the characters' dialogue bits lumped into one paragraph. In most cases, this is contrary to the customary rules of dialogue construction. This will be a bit difficult to explain, so if you find my explanation confusing, feel free to find a published fiction book instead and examine how that text handles dialogue - I guarantee that you will crack the methods very quickly, as you are obviously a talented writer! :)

Each character's dialogue is actually supposed to be in its own paragraph, in most cases. There are some exceptions, but again, most of the time, it's safe to stick with the one character's dialogue per paragraph rule. This means that if you are writing a conversation between Bobby and Jane, Bobby's dialogue must be in a paragraph separate from Jane:

"Won't you fetch the remote for me, Jane?" Bobby asked. He lounged about upon the couch, staring at Jane, picking the lint out of his navel, and otherwise being entirely useless.

"No," Jane said flatly. She then went about her business as if Bobby had ceased to exist with that refusal.

As you can see, the Bobby's dialogue is separate from Jane's; they are separated by paragraph breaks. Now, again, there are exceptions, but they are few between. For the most part, when you have central characters speaking, it's a safe bet to separate their dialogue bits.

Also, remember that you have to conclude narrative accompaniments to dialogue bits with punctuation, too. Here's an example:

Bobby remained where he was; if Jane wasn't going to get the remote then he certainly wasn't going to fetch it, either. He pouted and asked[,] "Why not?"

Here, I concluded the narrative portion accompanying the dialogue bit with a comma.

Jane paused in her vigorous polishing of the coffee table and raised her eyes to glare at him. "Because you're closer to the remote than I am, Bobby," she said.

Here, I flipped the construction of the sentence so that the dialogue comes before the narrative accompaniment. You'll notice that I concluded the dialogue with a comma this time before advancing to the narrative accompaniment, and that the comma comes /before/ the closing quotation marks.

There are more rules to dialogue construction, of course, but I hope this helped. Keep writing! :)

-Mina

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Well, you have captured my interest... :)
You are setting up a very interesting read. I usually don't like to comment until I get further into a plot line but this is very good so far. My only critique would just be a personal preference, I think it would be easier to read if the dialogue were seperated from the paragraph. But that is just editing, the story itself is very nicely written.

Posted 8 Years Ago


wow you really did a amazing job.You are a amazing writer!

Posted 8 Years Ago


i wish i could do this good at fiction, great job

Posted 8 Years Ago


This was great, I liked it alot. You go above and beyond with your imagery nice work

Posted 8 Years Ago


I agree, your imagery is really exquisite. The reader can truly picture what the writer is trying to help them see.

Posted 8 Years Ago


The writing style is quite beautiful, there are just some sentences that are just brimming with descriptiveness. I loved it when the saree was first described. However, it did confuse me a bit later on with this line "I heaved a sigh of relief noticing I was wearing a saree, and I wasn't required to do such menial work anymore." And then that she can't interact with others her age because of it. Is it something to do with status or custom or what? That got me a bit confused.
Just a point, each time a different character speaks it should be on a new line.
For a first, this great, the description is beautiful and the plot looks interesting.

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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AK
Goodness Priya! Your. First. Fiction.!?! It was amazing! Your vocabulary is sheerly mind blowing! I loved it and the picturing was really simple as I'm from India too. Great, great, great write!

Posted 8 Years Ago


Seriously? This is actually your first shot at fiction? That is absolutely amazing!! I honestly can't wrap my mind around that. This is seriously, seriously, probably the best-written piece of fiction I have ever found on this sight, and I am not kidding. Your imagery is absolutely stunning. I could see every detail of the narrator's inflections. And your vocabulary - wow! I honestly have nothing to critique, and I am probably one of the toughest critiquers (so not a word) around. Please, God, keep writing this!

Posted 8 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.


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Priya
Priya

Neverland, The Milky Way



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