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Chitvan Singh Dhillon, Hindustan Times
August 29, 2013
"Please join me for an evening full of fun. It's my 16th birthday, hope you won't miss this chance. It'll be great to see you there!" is what the birthday invitation of a neighbourhood friend read, sent via SMS.
Yesterday, while coming home after the party, I realised how times have changed, how birthday parties have undergone a complete evolution. No longer do children go around distributing those handmade invitation cards laced with beautiful calligraphy. Technology has played spoilsport. I wonder where all the balloons have vanished that were tied to the letterbox so that we knew which house it was.

Games back then were musical chairs, peek-a-boo, fire-on-the-mountain, lemon-spoon races, pin the horse's tail, treasure hunt, among others   simple yet enjoyable. The cake was the showstopper, ordered days before the B-day after carefully scrutinising every little detail, ranging from Spiderman to Mickey Mouse. The local baker would offer personalised service, making every little birthday boy/girl feel extra special with free sparklers to adorn the beauty.

Food was home-cooked and innovative   open sandwiches, fruit salads, sugar-coated cookies, muffins, 'chhole bhature', pineapple pastries, wafers and what not! Frootie would be the thirst quencher. Guests included neighbourhood buddies, schoolmates, grandparents and local family friends.

The photographer would be the man of the house the father! Making sure the Kodak reel was bought well in time and the camera was all set to roll. The biggest attraction would be the Piñata, a container often made of papier-mache, decorated and filled with small toys or candy, or both, and then was broken as part of the celebrations! All children with their party hats scrounged for all the goodies they could lay their hands on. The party culminated with a group photograph, as a memoir to treasure later, and the simplistic yet thoughtful return gifts.

As time has wound its way through the cosmic clock, an industry has grown up around birthday parties for the younger set. My little cousin went out for a birthday bash where he returned with a mobile phone as a return gift! Parties are fancy, on a level I don't understand; theme parties range from comic characters to even Bollywood.

There was also the period of surprise parties, where you threw your friend a party he didn't (?) know about. Local bistros, food chains and discotheques have become the favourite haunts for celebrating one's birthday; it doesn't matter if you're a 10-year-old! Gifts have become more elaborate and fancy, the timings have changed, and cutting the cake with your parents and grandparents around is more of an embarrassment, sad but true in many cases.

No longer do you find daddies struggling with the camera to take pictures, for the smartphone does the job. There are no return gifts, and the little dust-infested star-shaped Piñata lies in one corner, waiting to be broken, saying goodbye to the fun-filled birthdays of yesterday.

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