Sunday, March 25, 2012

Burday Burps

I have always celebrated my birthday on the 3rd of November, which I believe to be my birthdate. But my passport, 10th Certificate and PAN card choose to differ strongly. They claim that 3rd April 1990 is the date of my birth. They’ve always been in contradiction with my beliefs. Despite the authenticity of information that these documents boast of, I choose to believe that I’m a November born Scorpio.

Birthdays were fun days in our school. There were so many things that a birthday boy could get away with. If it was your birthday, you were expected to come to school in “colored clothes”. My cousins and friends from other schools would laugh at the term. “Holi khel ke jaaoge school?” was the usual question that was asked with an expression that you understand better by a colon followed by a capital-P. Then, all my cousins would correct me and call the birthday attire “casual clothes”. But if you were the teacher’s pet, you knew that your teacher could never be wrong. “Colored clothes” was what even your Irish Headmaster would call the clothes that you wore to school on your birthday, so the two words put together could not be wrong. You chose to not argue with your cousins ‘cuz you knew they were all stupid. Or calling them “Bal Bhartians” was enough.

So if one would ever spot a person in school wearing colored clothes, everyone would run up to him and wish him a very happy birthday with a wide smile. Saying thank you in reply always felt good.

All of this used to happen when I was in the Junior School. Birthday boys from the KG, First and Second grade would always have their parents accompanying them to school on the special day. The Papa would carry a huge polythene bag full of packets of “Ruffles Lay’s”, or Mango Frooti. Or there would be a pencil and an eraser along with 2 candies being distributed among the children. That day, the class-teacher would shout at the kids, ordering them to throw the sweets’ wrappers in the dustbin. Or she would correct them whenever they would say “rubber”.

Oye, woh mera rubber hai.
“Abhishek! You’re expected to talk in English. Do I hear you speaking with Sahil in Hindi?”
“Ma’am, Sahil has taken my blue rubber. His rubber was yellow. He is not giving it back.”
“It’s called an eraser”, the teacher would exclaim and then ask Sahil why he had Abhishek’s eraser.

Knowing that there was a birthday boy in class would make all the children happy. They’d keep whispering about what he planned to distribute right before lunch break.

My parents chose to distribute wax crayons and a small coloring book to all of my classmates when I was in KG. It made them happy to know that there was something different to look forward to, but “no toffee” almost meant like a “no birthday”. So after I explained the class rituals to my new to parenting parents, they added some sweets for all the little boys of KG-C.

Birthdays in school also meant you could forget your notebooks at home, not carry your school diary, act mischievous and get away without getting a warning note which was required to be signed by your parents, or you’d not be allowed in class on the following day.

When I graduated to Middle School, the colored clothes ritual remained, but there was no more a –thing- about inviting parents to school with a bag of goodies. The birthday boy would carry a bag of fifty packets of chips, each priced at Rs. 5. Variants of the birthday distribution item were chocolates or gel pens, which almost became a rage and the most sought after birthday return gift since writing with pens became mandatory in the fifth grade.

No matter how “cool” and manly the boys from St. Columba’s Middle School try to be, they’re all no better than girls in the sixth grade. A birthday boy wouldn’t go to school on his birthday if he didn’t have a pair of Nike/Reebok/Adidas to wear on his feet and a good set of clothes with images of his favorite cartoon character printed on them. To show the other shorts-wearing boys down, wearing a pair of full length denim jeans was a must. Birthdays in school for the little Columbans meant nothing less than a wedding celebration for a white gown clad Hollywood bride. There were so many things to be decided on from the pair of shoes to the Pokemon t-shirt to abiding by the no-shorts, no-trousers, just jeans rule. The dilemma of choosing between all things that were priced at Rs. 5 made one feel as bad as spelling “kinkartavyavimoodh” in Hindi. Cadbury Perk, Nestle Munch, Lay’s, Fun Flips, Montex Gel Pen… there were so many things to choose from!

Slowly, by the time we all came to 8th grade, the idea of wearing colored clothes to school seemed too childish. The ritual of sweets distribution also died a Parveen Babi death under mysterious circumstances. No one really knows when people stopped distributing sweets. Birthdays meant coming to school with a pocket that held nothing less than a thousand rupees so that you could treat all your classmates in the canteen. Middle school birthdays meant classmates, friends from outside class and the canteen-wala have a happy day.

Ninth grade onwards, lunches at Khan Market or GK, or a movie screening with popcorn at any of the PVRs was how guys in school defined birthdays. Close friends were invited for such celebrations and lots of pictures with boys going crazy enroute the venue in the host’s car were clicked.

I chose to invite five of my close friends for lunch to a restaurant in my locality on my sixteenth birthday. An Indian buffet of Rs. 250 per head sounded perfect, and didn’t make the pocket feel like Kareena Kapoor post “pop-corn only” diet. I told my peeps about the venue three days in advance. Two of them looked up its name in the Times Food Guide that evening. The following day they told me about how it had a rating of 3 out of 5, and it had their approval.

“Um, I didn’t seek an approval. I just informed you.”
“Oh we thought since your taste in clothes and eating places isn’t too great, we should look up for a review of the kind of food we are going to ingest.”
“It’s Indian. Eat as much Dal Makhni, Shahi Paneer, Kadhai Paneer and Naan as you want. Nothing else can sound better to me.”

I had a hearty meal on the much awaited day and so did three of my five guests. The other two just had enough to keep them from feeling hungry till they got back home.

“I would never give this place a 3. It looks like a baniya’s drawing room” one of them chuckled as he murmured it to the other.

While the other three of my friends ate like real men, I joined them in the game of --It’s an effing buffet. Hog till you can’t keep yourself from rushing to the toilet, biyatches—
Food made us oblivious to the ambience-bashing discussion going on in front of us. We cracked a few gay jokes post lunch and headed home.

It won’t be surprising for you to know that one of my “baniya’s drawing room” friends came out of the closet two years later and told us that he’s gay. It’s understandable. He’s pretty cool though. If you guys want any food or fashion advice, ask me to get you in touch with him. He’ll take your case like one of America’s Next Top Model and then ask you to “buzz off” to one of the places he mentions. “You just have to be ready to spend the money, honey.”

I digress. Sorry. So, I moved on to college and birthdays in CBS are taken to a whole new level. Especially if you’re a part of the street play society or a social butterfly like Navkaran Chadha. For all the non-CBSites, it’ll be enough for you to know that Navkaran Chadha is to CBS what Lindsay Lohan is to Vegas parties. College birthdays are full of surprises. Friends will drive down to your place at midnight with gifts, rip pictures off your facebook profile to make photo montages and call them videos. They send messages on BBM and WhatsApp to collect three hundred per person so that the birthday boy can be gifted a BlackBerry or a lens for his new DSLR. Some others will make huge cards that will be hung on college walls. Cakes will be thrown around more than eaten. Custom made t-shirts and tonnes of useless things will be given to you that evoke memories of inside jokes but serve no real purpose according to your parents. The boyfriend/girlfriend of the birthday person will also receive badhaiyan and text messages through the day.

Birthday celebrations change through one’s time in school and college. From discussing which “toffee” one plans to distribute in class to discussing all the “romantic” things that her boyfriend did for her on her birthday. We all grow. My parents don’t really do much on their birthdays other than ordering for food or going out for a family dinner. It’s funny how a birthday matters so much when one’s of a younger age. Well, not funny actually. Age plays its part. I’m twenty-one, and slowly moving towards the age which believes birthday celebration isn’t too big a deal after all. It’s not about how much you spend or where you treat your friends. It’s not really about saying that you don’t care and secretly hoping that your friends throw you a surprise. It feels good to get a surprise though. Really does. But in the end, it’s just about feeling happy all day long thinking that you own this day. There may be years with grand surprises and there may be some when you get no birthday calls at all. What’ll make it special is knowing that you lived another year of experience since that day on the calendar 365 days back. It’s another reason for you to stay happy and also to believe in the beauty of the fact that you don’t need a reason to wear a smile on other days.

I hope to see you celebrate a hundred more birthdays and three-sixty five hundred other days.

A very Happy Day to you :) 

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  1. The catch of the post is Chadda Jee =D

    And ofcourse, your baniya way of wishing him Happy Birthday

  2. Enjoyed reading the post. As always.
    I could relate to almost everything specially to the time when "Papa used to carry a polythene bag full of Ruffle Lays.." :P
    Birthday ka mention hai.. Isi baat pe 4th Nov gives a hi5 to 3rd Nov :D

  3. Haha! This is your best post!
    I'm going to show this to some Columban friends :D

  4. hahahah!! "Navkaran Chadha is to CBS what Lindsay Lohan is to Vegas parties " best tha yeh toh!!
    Perfectly summing up the 21 birthdays of your life
    PS: makes me wonder, why doesnt sargam read your blogpost :P

    1. I wanted to call him Paris Hilton, but we'll leave that name for an analogy with the Eiffel Tower city.

      Sargam doesn't read 'cuz she's a loser! :|

  5. You didn't have to disclose i was getting a blacberry before my birthday, you know that na?

    1. I posted this just a few minutes before your birthday. I didn't know people were gonna care more about reading it than planning the surprise :P

  6. Good one, Sarthak. I too have 2 b'days like u do.

    1. Ah! I'm sure it must be for school admission.
      What all naataks these schools do, I tell you.

  7. Jo bhi kaho, Primary School birthdays were the best! :')

    Deciding which clothes to wear a week in advance, making sure you distribute something new and 'classy' every year, unlike the 'chameli ke tel' vaale bache who distributed Eclairs. (I was such an upstart bitch as a kid, I tell you.) In our school, there was a custom where the birthday kid's best friend accompanied him/her to all the neighbouring classrooms and the Principal's office to offer sweets to teachers. So, all the friends spent the morning of that day sucking up to the birthday kid, to further their chances of being picked as the best friend. My 'BFF' and I always sniggered at those kids, because we knew we would always pick each other. (That's your cue to go, 'Awwww!')

    And then there was my eighteenth birthday this year, squashed in between pre-boards. *sulks*

    But, what a wonderful piece, Sarthak. This has inspired me to write a birthday-related post. I might do it for my friend's birthday. Have a Cadbury Silk for this one! ;)

    1. Same! I thought it was only a Columba's thing! :O

  8. I happen to have 2 birth dates too and that sort of sucks! Throw up two parties in a year because your friends wouldn't let you live through it.

    1. Haha. Why should that be a reason to complain! It's awesome, innit? :)


If you had 5 Jalebis, how many would you give me for writing this post?

None = You don't deserve any >:O
@ = Soggy and stale! :(
@@ = Stale! :|
@@@ = I'll need a samosa to digest this with! :P
@@@@ = Sweet and Crisp! :)
@@@@@ = I'm opening you a Halwai Shop! :D