“In our parties we do everything that happens in a ‘wild bash’. We drink hard liquor, we play loud music and dance like there’s no tomorrow,” says Proneeta Mukherjee, who is manager at a Calcutta beauty salon. There’s nothing unusual about this description of a ‘rave do’ except that Mukherjee is not, in her own words, “a spring chicken with whom society associates such wild parties.” She’s a 60-year-old woman who, along with a group of her friends, most of them her age or older, has rediscovered the art of partying. “Sometimes when we shake a leg, our knees knock together and our bones rattle, but we don’t stop,” quips Mukherjee. “Instead, we try to synchronise the sound of our creaking joints with the beat of remixed versions of retro tunes we had grown up listening to.”
Mukherjee’s mildly self-deprecating humour apart, her account of how she and other women like her—most of them currently single, whether widowed, divorced or unmarried, and past retirement age—are bonding the way the younger generation does, could possibly describe the beginning of a trend catching on in Calcutta. And this generation of elderly Bengali women, who would have borne the brunt of a conservative society’s age-related taboos, is stepping out of confined zones and into areas where their mothers never dared. Usually the long list of don’ts included, among others, not wearing colourful saris past a certain age, not eating non-vegetarian food and not doing anything that is remotely entertaining.