Birthday Boy Missing
Happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear brother happy birthday to you. The birthday song was continuously being sung by my cousins while I was nowhere to be seen. The cake was placed on the center table, candles lit but I was not there. Want to where I was well let me spill out the beans, I was hiding under the bed while my birthday was being celebrated.
It all happened on my 7th birthday in the year 1987, weeks of preparation which included ordering the cake from Jalojoga (those from Kolkata would be familiar with the brand), buying the packet of balloons from Gariahat Market to inviting all my cousins to join me in my celebration all had been done to make it perfect.
That year my birthday happened to fall on a Sunday and this was the key reason for me to hide under the bed. I was notorious in my younger years often feared by my aunts as the all-time trouble maker. So much so was the fear that whenever I went to visit my cousins there surely would be a fistfight at the end. After attending the morning church service I was preparing for my cousins to arrive then as a matter a sheer coincidence the pastor who had come to preach in our church that Sunday was a close friend of my father. Since our church was right next to our house thus it was common for my father’s friend to visit him for a chat over a cup of tea.
This pastor was in his Sunday uniform that is a cassock (clothes worn by a pastor of a church during church service). I don’t remember who but someone amongst my cousin whispered in my ear that “your time is up, the pastor had come to take you away to a church boarding school”. This was meant as a joke, but for me, it was a death warrant.
Since there was pastor available in the house my grandparents decided to request him for a prayer to bless me on my birthday. As the pastor stood and placed his hand on my head to bless I ran out of the room. I took the boarding school joke seriously to the core of my heart and I was under the impression that the blessing would signify my admission into the boarding school. I quietly slid under the bed and hid behind the trunks under the bed. My mother after searching for me around the house finally managed to track me down, no amount of persuasion from my mother, sister or my grandparents would make me come out.
So as my cousins sang “Happy Birthday” that year I peeped from behind those huge trunks and enjoyed a peaceful birthday assured that I will not be taken away to a boarding school.
The year 1994 it was my 14th birthday but this was very different from all the birthday that I had ever celebrated. I was lying on the bed sick as I was suffering from a relapse of typhoid in just one month. I had a high fever for days and I could hardly eat anything. I was actually surviving on medicines and a single table spoon of boiled rice for meals. It was the day before my birthday and I was crying a lot, my parents then assured me that I will be all right soon. That whole night I could not sleep as my fever kept coming and my head had to be washed to bring the fever down.
Finally, on the day of my birthday my fever started subsiding after almost a month of sickness I was finally recovering. That year there were no birthday celebration and my father had just brought home a pound of plain cake which I did cut but could not eat as I was not supposed to have them.
My father gave two gifts just to make me smile, it was a Jurassic Park plastic ruler and two Nataraj pencils. I still have that Jurassic Park plastic ruler with me, a few days back my daughter found that ruler in the cupboard and was playing with it when I asked her to return that ruler for safe keeping. My wife asked the reason for not using that ruler and then I told my daughter the story of this ruler.
Hello, Happy Birthday
The year 2002 it was my 22nd birthday and it was the very first birthday that I was celebrating away from my house. I was in New Delhi to attend a conference which happened to start on the very date of my birthday. I was honestly feeling sad that I was not with my family on my birthday but I had the assurance that at least I would be with my close college friends and the celebration would be grand.
Amongst all the commotion of the opening ceremony at Talkatora Stadium I completely forgot to call my parents. It was only in the evening that my father called me to wish me on my birthday, after him the phone was passed to my sister and finally to my mother who could not speak a word but simply cried over phone barely managing to speak two words “happy birthday”. I was quite annoyed as to why she kept crying but still I could not console her. Perhaps I would never understand the reason why coz I am not a mother.
From that day I always try to be amongst family members on birthdays, be it mine or that of anyone in my family.
Birthday now is just a date on the calendar when my age just like the meter on a taxi changes to the next one. Most of my cousins have left the city so no more grand get together parties. Just the steady flow of emails with “Happy Birthday” as the subject line and of course the Facebook updates which I am sure would vanish If I ever removed the details from the record.
How I miss those birthdays from my childhood…