1. Find the girls with the Rapunzel hair and the strawberry lips. It won’t be difficult; they cluster and twirl through the hall in hundreds, like starlings. Don’t let them see the seam ripper in your sleeve. When they sweep past you in shimmering swathes of silk and chiffon, use the blade edge to snip off as many sequins as you can. Be stealthy. Be sudden. Bead the sequins together in a noose-shaped necklace or a necklace-shaped noose. Either is sufficient. It’ll be the prettiest thing you ever made, winking flecks of orange and red and purple and blue. Save it for later.
2. Turn all the clocks forward by three hours so they serve dinner at nine, not midnight. The birth certificates of all the babies born that evening will bear the wrong time, and a generation of astrologers will produce inaccurate natal charts and give people the wrong advice about future professions, future spouses, and future children. But this is not your problem. By the time the mistake is discovered and corrected, you’ll be too old to remember or care.
3. Speak exclusively in lyrics. When rishta-auntie number four eyes your plain black kameez with disapproval, tell her you had no other choice because everything you own is in a box to the left. When your cousin says she’s afraid she might fail her finals, reassure her that she can stand under your umbrella, ella, ella, eh, eh. To increase the difficulty level, restrict yourself to a decade and a genre.
4. Carry an empty whiskey bottle in your purse. When your nani’s sister asks why it isn’t your turn yet, pull it out and tell her you need to consult your genie.
5. Linger while the bride tells her friends proudly that she has included her right to divorce in the nikahnama despite protests from her in-laws. When she leans forward to receive a relative’s perfumed kiss, steal her pride. (Keep the seam ripper handy – pride is never easily relinquished.) When you get home, dig a hole and bury it in the ground. In the morning there will be a new tree in your garden. Its branches will bend with fruit the colour of liquid gold. The flesh of the fruit will taste unexpectedly tart, like the moment when you finally realise the joke’s on you. Make a fruit basket and send it to the bride.
6. When it’s time for joota chupai, find a secret hiding spot where no one else will think to look. Pay attention to your peripheral vision and you will start to notice a pocket of space to your left, thin as mist. It hovers, barely perceptible, at the fringes of every shaadi you attend, between the shrieking children and the tedious new couple humour and the shadowy things that people suspect but don’t say. Hide the groom’s shoes in its vapourous clinch. Participate in the women’s giggles while he empties his wallet and their perplexity when the shoes don’t turn up. At the end of the night, the groom will leave the wedding barefoot and irritated.
7. When your parents hand you the invitation card for next Thursday night, tell them you’re done. When they insist because log kya kehengay, find your sequined noose and go hang yourself. Don’t be afraid. The asphyxiation will be a short, sparkling affair. When they’re done crying, your parents will go to the shaadi and tell the extended family over biryani that you’re still recovering from an awful case of food poisoning from the previous shaadi.
8. After you hear your parents leave, cut yourself down and call the others. They’ll arrive at your house in a great hollering gust of loudness and rudeness and laughter. One will bring her guitar, the other her tarot cards, and the third her weed. Take them to the roof and lie eagle-spread on the cement, all of you balancing your steaming cups of chai on your stomachs. The sky will be wide and soft but it’ll be too cloudy to see the stars. Feel the breeze shake free of the dark. Revel in the knowledge that this night is yours.