It all started with a noble thought. Nothing altruistic, I know, about celebrating your own offspring’s birthday, but then parents who work fulltime, and mostly overtime, are guilt ridden enough to look for every possible opportunity to make it up to their little ones. So enthusiasm naturally reigned in the Kalra household as it was time to celebrate my daughter’s fourth birthday. Now, a small birthday party for a small child seems like a small thing… right? Wrong. Wait till you hear how the tale — that of preparing for a seemingly innocuous party — can send ripples through the calm corners of your mind.
My better half and I sat over a series of meetings replete with notebooks — digital and otherwise, and discussed. Lists were made — guest list, food list, decoration list, dress-list, gift-list and return-gift list. That there were sub-lists of each is a minor detail I shall spare you. We decided to run the list by an ‘experienced’ friend. His child is five.
“What is the venue?” he asked, raising half an eyebrow. ‘Umm… our home’, my husband replied, looking around to reconfirm if our belief that 15 kids could fit into our humble abode was an unrealistic expectation. “What?” our counsellor growled. “No, no — do it at a Funky Orbit, Pizza Hut or at least a McDonald’s. It looks fancy on the invites, and also they take care of all the jhamela — you know, organising activities etc for kids.” Not having the heart to tell him there were no invites — we were simply thinking of calling up the guests, we just mumbled about it being a pleasure and not a jhamela, and how the kids would be informal and will enjoy more at our home. “Okay,” he sighed, clearly unconvinced and said, “here, take the number of this shop that specialises in birthday party stuff and activities.”
A specialised birthday party shop in place of the good ol’ neighbourhood bakery? Guilt again. Maybe we were too busy working and didn’t notice that now there are specialised shops for everything.
Scene shifts to the party shop. Our next tormentor is a stocky gent whose first look tells me that his and my planets are not aligned. “Theme?” he starts. “Birthday,” I reply. He gives me an exasperated look reserved for a demented and repeats, “Theme?” “Why don’t you recommend?” hubby dear comes to rescue at this point. “You could do Aqua, Bollywood, or Disney characters,” he replied like a Phd in party-ology, and said, “If you go for Disney, I would suggest Iridessa or Fawn, since Tinkerbell is now common.” “Are these your daughter’s names?” I ask, all in good humour, that goes waste right in front of my eyes. He looks ready to kill, but chooses to ignore.
“Tom n Jerry,” my daughter squeals, on seeing a photo of her favourite cartoon on the wall. He nods. So we bought the cake, hooters, balloons, caps, loot bag, decorations — all with Tom n Jerry on them. “Okay, now for activities,” he starts again. “Tattoo maker, mini beauty parlour, hair beads counter…and magician — that’s the least one can do for their kid once a year.”
I physically move forward with every intention to smack him but somehow he senses it and gets up. “Everyone does it. Your child shouldn’t think she’s any less.” Yeah right. He has moved on to the return gift options — around 600 types of gifts to choose from, depending on the age of the guest kids, and of course, the budget. At this point, I let my husband and the birthday girl take over.
Eventually, the party rocked and with it shook my age-old belief that birthday get-togethers are all about cake and potato chips. Maybe it’s time to work less and notice more.
Sonal Kalra thoroughly enjoyed the magician’s act at her daughter’s birthday party. She also got a tattoo made. That of the party shop owner, in a devil’s get-up.