Being the pampered one at home, my birthday was always the most-awaited. Neighbourhood children and school friends were invitees to the annual gala party. Colourful balloons, a customised cake, an adorable dress, foot-tapping music and the love of my family made the day special.
Being in the same shell for years, I never imagined a birthday different from this one.
But things changed. They always do. I lost two family members within a year. The shock left me with the strength to endure and the courage to introspect. I came out of my shell.
Initially, I was certain that I would not celebrate my birthday after two deaths in the family and due to financial constraints, but my father showed me the way out of the negativity surrounding us. He said, "What do you think? Will it make a difference to anyone if you do or don't celebrate your birthday? Do you think you will become great by not celebrating? Do you really think those who have left us will return if you don't celebrate?"
I sat still till I felt tears rolling down my cheeks. My father continued, "No one will return if you stop celebrating. If crying could bring our loved ones back then I'm ready to cry the whole day. Celebrate not for yourself but for others. Celebrate so that you feel the satisfaction of making your loved ones happy and share your happiness with the underprivileged. Happiness does not lie in making yourself happy. If you want happiness to grow, spread the cheer."
Filled with respect and love for my father and as a tribute to his open-mindedness, I decided to celebrate my birthday, for others. With a big cake, some boxes of rasgullas, packets of chips, freshly baked patties and a suitcase full of clothes, I headed for an orphanage with my family. The caretaker happily allowed us to share our joy with nearly 50 children.
Attired in worn-out clothes, they formed a queue in pin drop silence with hands at the back. The cake was unwrapped and it was difficult to miss the excitement in the air. I was amazed and felt sorry at the same time as they stood transfixed. As I cut the cake, I heard the sweetest birthday song in my life. I realised I had celebrated my birthday in the real sense this time.
Their smiles as they licked the cream off their fingers, their popping the whole rasgulla in their mouths at a go and then asking for more, their gorging on the patties never mind if they were hot or cold and their delight as they showed off their new clothes… were the best gifts I have ever received.
And yes, this year's birthday party was also the best as there was no wastage of food, no fussy guests and no flashy gifts. It was truly a real 'birth' day. I found joy in sharing it. Thank you papa.