Life's Like That

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Happy Birthday to me...

About a week ago, both this blog and I turned a year older. I now feel rather old, and like most old people I am getting rather nostalgic about the past. (My past that is, not the blog's, the blog does not have much of a past).

I was an only child for the first 12 years of my life, and much pampered by all. My birthday parties were something of an annual event for near and dear ones. Weeks in advance Baba and I go to Flurys to choose a birthday cake. Those were the days when the roses and decorations on top of birthday cakes would be made of real marzipan and high quality icing sugar as opposed to the sugary crap or the plastic that one finds now. And such creativity. I dont know if its just the bakers in Bangalore, but birthday cake designs these days are singularly unimaginitive and boring. I had a Cinderella cake for one birthday. It was chocolate, and had a orange icing coated plum cake which served as the pumpkin carriage, and a marzipan Cinderella leaning out of the window, and a marzipan fairy godmother waving the wand and little marzipan horses pulling the carriage. Siiigh. Why dont I see such grand cakes anymore? Why do all birthday cakes these days have icky looking roses on top? Why are they shaped like a doll with pink frosted skirts? Most unappetising.

Anyways, so my birthday was this grand affair. I would have two birthdays, one on the actual day, which was restricted to close family, and "house friends" where I received gifts and we went out for dinner and the other was the Party! Always on a Saturday. With aaallll my friends from school, and my "house friends" couple of my cousins, and my favourite aunts and uncles. It was really a grand affair. My grandparents would come down from Purulia a week before the event, my aunt would arrive the day before with her brother and mother, my other two uncles would show up on the day of the event and then run around busily picking up the cake, and the food and all of that.

I always had new clothes for the Party. Atrocious styles that were in vogue at that time. ..do any of you remember this monstrosity that was the dhoti style salwar suit? The salwar was amde out like a dhoti...extremely ridiculous it was. I distinctly remember wearing a pink colour outfit in that style, and a pink heart shaped pendant on a pink ribbon around my neck. Please imagine a short, plump, bespectacled, short haired child in this pink concoction and have a good laugh. Oh...while you are imagining, also, imagine the aforementioned child with a THICK layer of talcum powder around her neck. My mother, for reasons best known to her, felt that the only way to beat the Calcutta humidity was to put 6 layers of talcum powder (applied wiht a powder puff) around my neck, chest and back. And I never objected. Shows you what a nice docile child I was.

I remember being almost breathless with anxiety before the first of my guests arrivied. What if noone from school came? What is they forgot!? What if...? But they wouldnt miss it for the world. SR had a stiff neck once and couldnt get up from bed to come to school, but she cried and threw tantrums till her mother brought her to my Party. She spent the evening lying on my bed or sitting with a huge pillow propped up behind her neck. T came...tiny scrawny T in ponytails, SS and PJK threw a joint tantrum one year when their mothers said they could not bring them over due to heavy rain. The tantrums worked and there they were! We shrieked and giggled and screamed till my mother called us to order with some party games. Passing the parcel, feed the joker...we sang and danced and fed the joker and laughed and giggled our way through. We cut cake, we ate dinner and then they went home and it was over.

But my Party never ended with my friends going home. My grandparents, uncles, aunts etc would stay back at our place...sleeping on matresses spread out on the living room floor. And then came the very best part of my Party...the day after. When we woke up late and sat on my parents bed to open my gifts. All of us...the whole family. We opened gifts, passed them around, laughed joked, oohed aahed, set aside some "repeat gifts" to be given off to someone else and got excited about the books and the board games. We ate the leftover food from the Party with gorom khichuri...and believe me when I say khichuri never tasted as wonderful as it did on that Day After the Party. We spent the day lazing around, playing Monopoly or Scrabble or just chatting.."adda" at its very best.

Of course things changed once I reached my teens. My parties now became a "day spend" with all my friends on a Sunday, where we went to a nearby restaurant for lunch, sat in a room with the door locked and tried our hands at the Ouija Board, and giggled about boys. The Day After the Party came to an end.

This year, a text message from a friend overseas brought home the fact that so much has changed, and so much more is going to change. From being Baba's "Allhadi" and Bubunpishi's Tinai and ma's "Penchirani"( do NOT ask...at one point I was apparantly inordinately proud of this name!!") and Jethu's "Tinuma" I will be entering a different phase in life...alone. Where I will have to build relationships from scratch. Be loved and accepted by some but also be judged, be compared by others and most horribly, be unsure of how to proceed. And this year, on my birthday, I realized that what made my Party so special was not just my friends, but also, most importantly my family. Not just Ma and Baba, but Dadai and Maam, and Bubunpishi and Jethu and Jethi and Chotomamu, and Bappada, and Babuakaka and Munkukaku....all the people who made it such a big deal for me, adults who got as excited as a 10 year old child and gave it their wholehearted best.

I wish I had realized this earlier, I wish I hadnt taken my family for granted. I wish I had made the effort to speak to Jethu one last time before the end. I wish I had known that the loud tortured gasp coming from Dadai's room was a sign that it was all over, and not just another painful transition to consciousness. I wish I had switched off the TV and rushed to his room to hold his hand and tell him what he meant to me. Its too late now. I shall spend the rest of my life remembering those wonderful moments of my childhood and feeling terribly terribly guilty about the things I did not do. I spent this birthday wondering how Jethu and Dadai would have reacted to Rahul, to the upcoming wedding.

On a more cheerful note, the rest of my family is the same...Bubunpishi used to get excited about Party decorations and return gifts. She is now excited about wedding invites, and hall decorations and bride decoration :) Chotomamu, the food coordinator of my Parties is now highly charged about the wedding menu, and related issues. Ma has been an integral part of deciding what I should wear for the wedding. She picked out the wedding sari herself, anjust like she picked out my birthday dresses years ago. Munkukaku Bappada etc are all thrilled to bits that I am getting married. Nothing has changed. Thank god. Thank god for my family. Thank god somethings never EVER change.

16 Comments:

  • You just brought my childhood back to me. Those birthdays and family and friends and birthday cakes and games and everything that you mention....wonderful read. Thanks for sharing with us. And oh yes before I forget Happy Birthday for whenever it was.

    By Blogger M (tread softly upon), at 6:30 AM  

  • First, Happy birthday! and boy were u a lucky kid!!..lol..my folks gave me a 100 bucks and said, 'have a blast kid!'. though i did have a couple of bday parties, to be honest...but nothing of the grand scale u talk about...how did you spend ur bday by the way?

    By Blogger Abhishek Chatterjee, at 6:15 PM  

  • @m : siiigh. those were the days. i want a cinderella cake..sniffff!!!

    @abhishek : this year....siiigh. i was forced to stay awake till 12 at night to cut a slice of blueberry cheesecake and then next morning i went to work, and then we went for dinner. siiigh!!

    By Blogger Ron, at 10:31 PM  

  • Birthdays have just stopped being so exciting, no? I remember waking up with that nice butterfly feeling in my tummy knowing there was something special about the day. And now, I think I just spend the whole day on the phone. I want to steal your idea and write a birthday post of my own. May I?

    By Blogger The Marauder's Map, at 1:00 AM  

  • That was a lovely post - cakes definitely don't taste like that anymore and you don't have butterflies in your tummy beacuse aging one more year isn't so appealing.
    And Happy Birthday, hope it was happy and even if it wasn't hope that the coming year will be:)

    By Blogger Dreamcatcher, at 6:10 AM  

  • wish i cud send a hug across, if this comment blog allowed html tags

    If u've known God, if u've known how faithful he's been in the past (i so wish you do), why should you be afraid to leave ur future in his hands?

    here's wishing a real bright future for you.

    Lage Raho

    By Anonymous vintage, at 12:14 PM  

  • Wish you a belated happy b'day! :)
    And yes, most of the times we are thankful because somethings never ever change. Wish the cakes had also not changed? What say? :D
    BTW, I could not stop laughing reading about the dhoti salwar. Believe me I had one too. It was a great favourite!!
    Right, I wouldn't want to be caught dead in one!

    Rita

    PS: Posting as anonymous because, I've upgraded to blogger Beta and cannot post comments on non-beta blogs!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:57 PM  

  • belated happy birthday. this was an incredibly moving post. here's hoping the new, larger family will involve much fun and good times!

    By Blogger rainbeau_peep, at 12:43 PM  

  • Happy belated birthday. :)

    By Blogger Kele Panchu, at 9:59 AM  

  • Belated happy birthday Ron..well the past will remain jus in memories..but u shdould be feeling luck y that u had such wonderful memories to keep. its the power of being the only child wow..little princess..
    it was really nice reading your post..the dhothi salwar..can't imagine who created that..
    the real fun is missing from the present day b'days. they have become more of a formality..now..

    wishing you years of joy n love n happiness...sonia

    By Anonymous sonia, at 4:45 PM  

  • Yes...it's reassuring when it seems some people are still the same. I get that feeling sometimes, especially when extended family gets together. Nice post.

    By Blogger Soham Pablo, at 8:34 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Ron, at 5:57 AM  

  • @everybody : Thanks a lot for the birthday wishes. It wasnt a bad birthday really, the boy and friends were very sweet. Its just that I got all nostalgic and started missing my family, especially my grandfather, all of a sudden.

    By Blogger Ron, at 6:09 AM  

  • gosh! got me back to the childhood...the reminding friends endlessly about the budday pattty, the waiting with bated breath in the balcony in the evening, the forcibly being pulled off for a bath and hair being brushed and (as you correctly remember) the layers of talcum powder...before anyone arrived...

    ... the evening would pass in a blur and by the time everyone left, I would already be half asleep, being carried in my father's shoulders to bed, crying, insisting that all the gifts be put on the bed with me.

    oh what days they were! thanks for bringing it all back...

    By Blogger Deep, at 9:02 AM  

  • You really brought back old memories! Very nice post as always...

    Btw, I m still feeling very guilty abt wishing u late on ur bday and forgetting about ur engagement!!! I am really sorry about it. 11th was my first day here and therefore was too anxious and tense...

    By Anonymous Gauri, at 12:30 AM  

  • hey!
    belated happy budday!
    (will comment on da post later)

    By Blogger BangaloreGuy, at 7:36 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home