Birthdays are a bitch. No this is not a rant about growing old and about the death of idealism —– for that I ask you to refer to my last year’s post where I tried to deal with the monumental milestone of turning thirty.
Birthdays are a bitch because no matter how hard I try not to get misty-eyed, my mind is flooded with memories of other December 30s when our living room would be decked out with ribbons, my uncle would be blowing balloons, my grandmother would be fighting with the Oriya “thakur” (cook) who would insist on adding an inordinate amount of spice to the chicken and I would rubbing my hands gleefully in anticipation of all the gifts I would have at the end of the day.
Gifts. Yes that’s what birthdays were for. By 8 o’clock in the evening I would start feeling jumpy at the late hangers-on as I kept looking at the clock with increasing impatience. Did these people not understand that it was now time to open my gifts ! Incidentally my parents were not in favour of opening presents in front of everyone, no doubt because of my expressive face which mirrored (and still does) my disappointment and glee a bit too honestly. Hence the wait.
And then sitting on the bed and ripping away at the gift-wrap with the unbridled wantonness of the desi male on his marriage night. Blessed were those who gave Tintins, Moby books (children’s illustrated classics), cricket bats, badminton racquets (together with what we in our innocence called the “cock”) and damned to the 10th circle of hell were those who gave shirt and trouser pieces (that too grey or white), Russian fairy tales and birthday cards that had “Happy Seasons Greetings” written on them.
As I grew older and girls pushed out the Famous Five and “Noddy and his gay times with Big Ears in the woods” from my life, birthdays became more political. No more inviting relatives. Friends were more the focus. And the special girl. What would she write in the card? Would it be lovey-dovey? Knudgy-winky? Would it be “simple friendship”? Or would it be the dreaded—” Happy Birthday to my best brother”?[ For all you young kids who don’t get what the fuss is about, we had no Valentine’s Day in those pre-historic times and birthdays were often the best opportunities to get the message across.]
Things however have changed now. Older and wiser, I am supposed to dismiss a birthday wish with a shy “thank you” as if any kind of attention is too embarrassing for an old fogey like me.
I do act “mature” of course. But my heart is not in it.
Because honestly, I still crave for all the attention and the fussing.
I still count the cards and the phone calls I receive even though I know this is “just another day”.
Yes birthdays are a bitch precisely because of this disconnect between what “should be” and “what is”.
Note to self: I really should stop making fun of Dev Anand.