G.K. – 20th July 1969: Man Landed on Moon
Birthdays, they used to mean a great deal for me when I was a kid. Not that I don’t find any joy in being wished by my near and dear ones, yet the exhilaration, the enthusiasm, the urge to celebrate, they are long lost, buried, deep underground. I don’t wish to sound pessimistic, but birthdays have become plain boring now. It has become yet another ordinary day. It has not always been like this for me.
I remember that June month used to be like ‘Onam
’ for me, my personal month of celebration. I had to think of which brand of sweets to buy, how many packets of sweets to buy and so on. I had to give chocolates not only to my classmates but to my friends who were in the other classes. But when I go and meet them, there will a couple of other boys whom I don’t even know. But since they are mutual friends, I had to consider their number also during “the purchase”. There used to be a list of teachers whom I had to give sweets no matter whether they teach me or not. There were two plans – one economical and the other not so economical.
If I meet those teachers , then I will be drawing attention of all the teachers nearby and naturally will be forced to give them a share of my fortune cookies no matter I want to or not. This created a kind of dent in my budget. (Not that there was any budget, but I liked to assume it used to.) The other, more economical plan was to catch them when they are alone. To monitor their movement, check their timetable, stalk them and finally corner them when they are alone and give the sweets. Two advantages are there in this approach. One , you need not waste your chocolates on those whom you don’t really care about, and two, you can be as cute and charming as you want to be with the teachers, without drawing comments from anyone else. This trick helps a lot if it is a lady teacher, since they simply adore kids who adore them back.
The other biggest constraint was my own personal greed and the mini monster, a.k.a my sister. (She was not a mini monster but I liked to think of her like that.) How so many sweets I may get for myself, the pleasure of taking the eatables meant for others, it’s just something else. Like they say in Bourneville’s ads, you have to earn it.
For Indian kids, usually but not always, there are two birthdays. One is your regular date of birth, yawn stuff, and the other is your Star Birthday. Yes, it is a word, wholly patented by Indian kids. Most kids have their star or nakshatram
which will almost never coincide with their birth dates. Many families celebrate this day at home where they mark the occasion with tasty payasams
and similar traditional food items.
I remember one of my birthdays when I was in 6th or 7thstandard. It is the only birthday in my memory which I feel like I actually celebrated with people around. I had invited all my friends for sadya. My mom, being the wonderful chef she is, prepared some of the exquisite dishes.
On the wet green vazha ilai(banana leaf?!), hot white rice, with a handmade pit in the middle, into which steamy muringakasambar is poured, beans thoran, Urulakizhangu upperi, pappadam and manga curry. And finally after everything is done, the ever so irresistibly delicious paal payasam (sometimes with Boli).
We had the sadya and my friends gave me some really wonderful gifts. Nithin (now undergoing his training as a Fighter Pilot in Indian Air Force academy at Hyderabad [yeah I am bragging that I got a friend there]) gave a photo album which I have with me till date, and my really close and not to mention, humorous friend Varun (in Amrita University, Kochi) gave me a toy car and no I don’t have that car right now, sorry Varun. And those poor souls, who are really bad at buying gifts, gave me some pocket money. Birthdays usually ended up making me a 100 times richer than I was a day before.
I really do not remember when things changed, rather, when I changed and started giving not much interest in my birthdays. It may be the time when I found out that I was “celebrating” my birthdays on the wrong date for the past 18 years. I thought that once I reach my college I could get over with this strenuous exercise of trying to make this day look like something special. Apparently not. There is this nightmare called birthday bumps. And thank you, all the people, god, and all the people once again, for not subjecting me to that cruelty. I think, all knew, in a way that if I receive their gifts of extreme affection, I may not live to see the daylight (the only advantage of me being an almost – anorexic lean person). At the final year I even stopped pretending to care about it. Yes, people were caught up with their own personal works, placement etc. and that helped my case.
But there is one thing, that till my latest birthday, that is today, which has remained special. A group of people make it a point to wish me whether it is at the stroke of midnight or a day later or even a week later. When they call you, and tell you some lame jokes, and then come to the point and wish you a really very happy birthday, I just can’t do anything but simply smile and be truly happy. Small moments make life meaningful and those wishes, strangely, still do make me feel good.