“Dadi , you don’t know about your birthday!” was the reaction of Mohini, my daughter, to the dilemma that my mother faces. Most of the seniors of her age relate their birthdays to the weather of the time or the irregular Hindu calendar. My mother relates it to a close cousin of her. “I am 21 days younger to Toshi, exactly,” she says. And when we quiz Toshi, the answer is: “I am 21 days elder to Jog (my mother).”
As I turned 56 recently, the memories of my birthdays over the years came flooding in. The earliest birthday I could remember was my ninth.
The recollection of having received gifts aplenty and fought with my sister, who had opened each before I could, is vivid. Out of the 30-odd gifts, 15 were ludos, 10 Chinese Checkers, and the rest an assorted mix of building blocks. All the repetitive ones got passed on as birthday gifts.
My wife hates birthdays. The birthday kid gets no attention from mother, who is busy making preparations for the evening party, she says. Birthday parties organised at hotels are changing her conviction. The other day, we attended the first birthday bash of the granddaughter of my businessman school buddy. Organized at an upscale resort, it was more lavish than my son’s wedding. Arrival of the year-old, snug in the embrace of proud parents, well after even some guests, indicated a stress-free birthday for the infant and the kin.
The birthday boys in most of the army units are expected to throw a cocktail party. Birthday wishes start early in the day as a run-up to the evening. That year, it was an irony of sorts. I was a junior Captain and next day was my birthday. It also happened to be our newly posted commanding officer’s birthday, as informed by the adjutant, who has access to personal dossiers.
Everybody lined up outside the CO’s office to wish him. I, a perplexed captain, was also in the queue but clearly forgotten by everyone, like every October 2 when the birthday of Lal Bahadur Shastri is overshadowed by Gandhi Jayanti. It turned out that the date entered in the dossier was not the CO’s actual birthday. Notwithstanding the ridicule that the real birthday boy had to experience, the Bacchus lovers did not spare him from bringing on the customary cocktails.
My latest birthday was a game changer. My wife served me the morning cuppa, a duty I had been performing for the last decade of being jobless. My daughter-in-law worked out a perfect breakfast spread of my choice before she left to work.
My son, who doesn’t even know the location of the kitchen, served it in style. My wife, saw me off to the golf club with a smile, for a change.
There were never-ending birthday wishes from Facebook friends and WhatsApp groups, not to forget the midnight smearing of the face with a chocolate cake by the family. Suddenly, birthdays are sought-after; so my mother is trying desperately to figure out her date of birth.
The writer is a Chandigarh-based retired colonel