When I was a kid, a birthday was an event. It was a day on which I was forgiven for expecting the world to centre around me. As I’d welcome my friends at the door every year, I’d look to snatch the gift out of their hands before they’d extended a handshake towards me. I guess what they brought for me never really mattered, especially in the later years… because I remember many unopened board games lying around in the cupboard for ages together, and sometimes even a barbie doll generously gifted to me would find itself naked stashed away in an inaccessible corner of my toybox. No, I don’t think it was about the presents. On retrospect, I think I enjoyed the adulation that a birthday warranted me, and the sense of comfort that I got out of having so many friends over at my house to help me have a good time.
When I was in school, I would look forward to my birthday party of the year. I’m sure that a lot of other people also looked forward to getting invited to my birthday party (quote a testimonial on Orkut from Nafs– “you were the one who gave really fun birthday parties”). And I wouldn’t doubt it either, because I remember that planning a birthday party at my house was always a family event. My brother loved to have his parties at Hardees, while I preferred mine at home, with Dad being the mastermind behind the many games and variety of food to go around, hehe.
Some memories stay so fresh in your mind. I can remember what I wore right from my 7th birthday party. I remember trying out a new smile for my 12th birthday party photographs (DISASTROUS!!!), the first time my younger cousins became my guests at my parties, and the 3 sets of birthday bumps at my 14th birthday (one in the garden, one in the house and one for the camera). I remember that my 13th birthday fell on a Friday the 13th, and I remember that at that party all my girlfriends had conspired beforehand to wear the same hairstyle. And for some reason beyond my comprehension, I don’t remember my 15th, 16th and 17th birthday parties. Maybe I didn’t even have them. But I do remember Vyz tossing me a card in school and saying, “You’ve got Airmail!” Heh, heh.
After I left home for college, birthdays in the hostel were a different story altogether. The first birthday celebrated in the batch was mine, and so I was genuinely surprised when the cake arrived. But 5 years of the same practice for anybody’s birthday got me to expect my cake well in advance. Yet, the happiness brought to a person by being the centre of attention for a day overrules all expectations, in my opinion… and so, every birthday in hostel was special in it’s own way. How can I forget when H & K surprised me with dress material for a birthday present? Or the birthday treats at Shakes’n’Creams where we waited for snail paced service to deliver our orders? Or rushing to buy a birthday dress well in advance? Perhaps the best birthday memory I have is the last birthday in hostel when my friends walked in and wished me at the stroke of 12, and pretended NOT to have a surprise planned for me. Again, birthday presents were not really what I wanted (you tend to gift and be gifted the same old showpiece when you’re a student!), I just loved the feeling of having so many friends around.
When I graduated and left for Ahmedabad for a graduate degree, I never imagined I could have better birthdays in the midst of back breaking academics. Yet my first birthday in Ahmedabad saw me pelted with eggs and cake before I shampooed and washed up and rejoined the circle of Garba revelry during Navratri that year.
By now, the excitement of birthday gifts has worn out, and I continued to have birthday parties, or rather treats, in honor of my turning a year older each time- which isn’t really my idea of celebration, I’d rather not celebrate my birthday from behind a table. Some things change, and some things don’t!
This year though, for once I have wished to be far from the milling crowd, and celebrate my birthday with my parents, after a long, long time. The trouble is, my brother’s away and I’m unemployed in a new city and so I really have ONLY my parents to celebrate it with this time around! For the friends who’ve been a part of my birthdays for a long time, I’m just a phonecall or an email away. However, the biggest killjoy in all of this has been Orkut, with it’s systematic system of birthday alerts. Or any form of birthday alert for that matter. I agree, in spite of having the uncanny ability to remember birthdays, I still have the feature enabled on my page. Yet, every birthday I’ve had since being on Orkut makes me think that half of the wishes I get are merely half-hearted responses to an automated alert system. So if I have ‘x’ number of friends, and say I get ‘x’ number of birthday wishes on my birthday, I wonder what number from the ‘x’ number of wishes were really genuine and didn’t require a reminder! It truly takes the novelty out of the system. Perhaps I can take comfort in the fact that I know the few people who’d probably remember my birthday to their graves, and who would expect the same from me. For the rest, the Orkut birthday reminder is just another do-good-feel-good tool, I guess.
So, while I turn another year older, I shall ignore the morality/sincereity behind the Orkut birthday alert and prepare myself for a day just like the rest. It may be lonely, but I still have the memories of my previous birthdays to keep me company this year.
To all my friends who’ve been a part of my special day for the last few years, here’s looking at you guys. Thanks for all the fish!