You cannot decide how and when you make an entry
or how and when you are goanna make an exit.
Destiny is a sure thing, it will happen;
But how and when to celebrate life is our own choice.
Changing dates on a calendar will happen;
But to colour them red green or purple is our own choice.
I miss the anxiety two days before the 24th -my tender mind thinking who will gift what and how. Guestlist was almost the same every year. Relatives, neighbours and school friends. The count of guest could increase at my own discretion. Toffee distribution at the school, buying the latest ones at the wholesale rate from ‘ghaspatti, sabzi mandi ‘ that huge shop (that’s how it seemed) had everything-Eno filled ‘Googly’, choco caramel eclairs and milk bar. Beautiful home flowers bouquet and vanilla cake decked with gems made by one of my Aunty was an absolute delight. Aloo posto chop and three different variations of paneer curry were on the menu always.
An early morning stroll to the temple with papa and then the VIP treatment the whole day long was something worth waiting for. Gifts often composed of either dresses/sweaters or indoor board games. I and my Elder brother had hoarded as many as fifty such games- Begadella, Chinese chequer, brain vita, money circle, carrom, chess, ludo and what not ! Fancies of nineties childhood could easily beat today’s PUBG or mobile games craze; had we allowed them to stay? Sigh… Planting saplings was another tradition that We performed on birthdays. Childhood synced into the teenage and it became a little uncomfortable for us to organize birthday parties like old days. Also, it became a bit embarrassing. Yet, there is a supposedly lot of goodies bestowed upon you if you have your own temperament and parents who are 80%childlike. Cakes, gifts, delicacies, flowers, decorations, and a lot of adoration were always an integral part of the day, whatever the guest list might be.
Though often the hustled one, yet Birthday in college meant midnight birthday kicks on hostel’s terrace, subsequent treats at Evergreens or Nirula’s. I remember once forgetting the exam date and time and sleeping till 9. O0 am right on my birthday, while the exam was about to start at 9:30.While birthdays hold a very important place in my life, I was in my deep sweet slumber and thought that someone was calling me to wake me up and wish me a happy birthday. But in reality, it was one of my panicked classmates who was calling me up repeatedly since I was a nerd and an Encyclopedia who everyone used to refer for theory exams. I was seen more in classrooms, labs and Library than the event and amphitheater.
Nevertheless, I somehow managed to wake up and reached the classroom when I saw that every dear pal of mine had their eyes fixed on the door, while question papers were already distributed which hardly anyone was bothered to take a peep into. Since this wasn’t the common board exam but a mid-term internal one, things were relaxed a bit. As I entered the pattern making hall -where the exam was scheduled to happen, everyone stood up and sang to one’s heart content “Happy birthday to you, may God bless you, you were born in a zoo, many boyfriends to you….” Well… Ahem… That was more a sarcastic tone than a wish… Meanwhile, this bought my classmates and me ten extra minutes to settle down. My and one of my friend’s notes were photocopied, scaled-down in size and made a mini dictionary(a.k.a. chit and the whole process as mass cheating) to be referred to easily by all.
While my class fellows were quite chilled out and had a tradition of getting dressed up like the birthday boy or girl, I could notice that even some of my teachers were dressed in kurta and jeans carrying a fabric bag despite belonging to the Leather design department; just like me. Recess saw two different cakes and subsequent treat at evergreens behind the college backdoor, which was a VIP place for us in those times. I could not decide if I was that important or special for everyone or the theory exam that was scheduled on that particular birthday made me special.
While in a hostel, it also meant that midnight birthday bumps were supposed to give a sore backache for days ahead. The mustachioed guard uncle would mandatorily shout at us for disturbing him. What I savor utmost to this day is extra worship conducted by the founder of this blog (Ms.Arpi) in the Jagannath temple and the temple which was just behind the hostel. It was such a melodramatic feeling for me because I never told her but I wasn’t that religious person at all ,but I followed her naively to the temple because I feel it cleansed my soul a bit more . Like a green tea does to the fat content. Also, I got a chance to flaunt my deeds on phone in front of my mom. There are a few people who detox you with there mere presence in your life indeed.
Teens merged into the youth and few portions of the secluded loneliness witnessed away from the home still lingers to this day. That innocent enthusiasm of who will gift what made me stay awake for many hours in a night, a week before the birthday has got suppressed now.
Traversing the years of the third decade of life, phone calls, messages make you smile and realize that you are still alive, still special, still loved. Even though the bald patch, the grey strands on the otherwise messy head full of hairs, the aching back, the soring eyes and migraine-luscious head start ringing the wake-up alarm to do something worthwhile while the time is still ripe. There are miles to go in the small raft braving the huge pandemic troubled ocean. Nevertheless, I had gifts, three cakes from family and an overenthusiastic toddler hopping around singing “Happy to you, happy to you Mumma” to make me even more thankful, overwhelmed and humbled than I had ever been.
My Enthu-cutlet’s overwhelming sense of celebration that goes months before and after makes me do things that I would have not bothered to take efforts for otherwise. Though She does not understand the true meaning and need of celebrating a birthday yet, there is no harm in becoming a child herself to accompany her. At a time when she is devoid of any friends, we could not enrol her in the proper nursery due to lockdown, my responsibility to serve as her friend, teacher, circumstantial preparedness and an answerable Mom has increased manifolds. I feel it’s a huge responsibility and no less than a full-time job scene to rear up the member of a future generation. It needs the best of me, which I am trying to give in.
Above and beyond all the overwhelming display of celebration that the stereotypic society has chalked out for kids, on the whole, there exists a blatant truth. This truth is that Kids are so overpowered with the imagery of birthday celebrations that once they reach the schooling age, they will desire to get their birthdays celebrated as they have imagined. But God forbid, if their parents fail to accomplish their dreams due to economic or some other hurdles in the family, will not the children be affected?
Birthdays are meant to commemorate the birth of a precious soul and they should be taught to cherish the day, by all means, it could be by planting new saplings /trees, doing some sort of community service or just taking a pledge before the almighty to stay righteous to the best of our knowledge. There should be no price tags associated with the celebrations.