A Calmer You, by Sonal Kalra: It’s my birthday. I have no plans
Decoding the special day, till life comes a full circle.Updated: Mar 23, 2019 16:53 IST
It’s my birthday today. A million thanks to those who smiled. A glare to those who rolled their eyes. Khush mat ho jaana kabhi kisi ke liye, haan? To my memory, it’s the first time in 11 years of writing this column that my birthday has co-incidentally fallen on the exact date of it getting published. I have a right to feel happy, correct? Thanks for nodding, but truth be told, happiness is not exactly the emotion I feel right now. It has little to do with the fact that I woke up to Chaddha ji’s voice note, singing ‘happy burrday’ in a manner that can give a collective stroke to the entire Indian music fraternity. The low feeling I’ve been experiencing and the one I was putting down to me being a nutcase, my dear friends, has turned out to have a scientific basis.
So apparently ‘birthday stress’ is a medically recognised phenomenon and happens across the world — Matlab mujhe bimaari ho, toh koi desi type toh ho nahi sakti. Quoting Myrna Weissman, chief of epidemiology at New York State Psychiatric Institute, from an interview of hers online: “A birthday comes along with expectations, as you envision a perfect day celebrating with your loved ones. The weight of those expectations, and the fallout if they aren’t met, can be upsetting.” She adds, “One has expectations that others are going to congratulate them, remember the birthday, give a gift. If that doesn’t happen, it’s very disappointing.”
Ab dekho ji, yeh gift waali baat maine nahi kahi. They’ve made a full-fledged department in New York, no less, to come out with such deep insight into how you can ensure that the person enduring the deep stress of birthday gets some happiness. Baaki hum toh hint hi de sakte hain, in the era of model code of conduct.
Jokes apart, birthdays are fun. And stressful. But interestingly, the reasons for that stress differ so much, depending on what stage of life we are passing through. Here’s how I have tried to decode the birthday stress, during such phases:
First Birthday: Pata nahi manaate kyun hain itne bade scale pe... because the poor birthday baby is clueless, hungry, irritated and cranky at seeing so many rishtedaars trying to stuff cake into her mouth. A big conical cap with a rubber band that hurts at the chin is suddenly perched on the head… everyone starts to clap, the DJ starts ‘baar baar din ye aaye (in which some Sunita keeps getting wished), and the baby starts to cry. Tell me honestly, how many of you have seen your first birthday photos where you are spectacularly pissed off in the godi of your mom and dad, ready to regurgitate the milk you just had, and spit it out on the aunty who is busy posing into the camera while feeding the cake to your nostril. Rings a bell?
Birthdays before turning 10: Those are fun, because kids dream about it for days ahead. Mulling over whether the cake will be the shape of the Spider-Man or the Peppa Pig. School will allow for only two toffees per child, but friends keep prodding on where your parents are going to do the ‘real’ celebration – amusement centre, theme park or food court at the mall. Excitement galore while opening the presents till it bursts like the balloons your friends blasted, because the gifts have CLOTHES in them. Oh, how kids hate getting clothes on their birthdays. Bechari aunty H&M ki sale se laayi thi, but why do I care. I wanted a toy, man. Not done.
Birthdays during teenage: Nice, again. But lots of stress now, in addition to pimples breaking out on the day of the birthday. I hope my outfit looks decent. Hot. Decent hot. Should I invite my crush for the treat in the canteen, because then three of his tag-along friends would need to be called too. And dad has given limited money. The school should have allowed my cellphone today at least. These pics would have been perfect for Insta. Anyway, I’ll take them afterwards. I really hope mom-dad don’t invite chacha chachis in the evening. That’ll be too tiring, and I need to beautify my photos before uploading them. Kya yaar. Rishtedaar kyun aate hain?
Birthdays in 20s: Woohoo, life’s a party. Damn, why did Hauz Khas Village have to shut some of its best watering holes? My friend knew the manager, who would have at least got me one plus one on the shots. By the way, 52 notifications on Facebook. I hope my grin doesn’t show. Raat ko I’ll reply to all with one nicely worded message, copy-pasted from the bottom of the heart. Abhi tak only two flower bouquets have come. Did I say yes to my boyfriend’s proposal to see this day?
Birthdays in 30s: 29 years 23 hours and 56 minutes is also technically in my 20’s right? Why do I have to turn 30, yaar. Now, I better get serious about life, career, relationships overnight. These vella friends, by the way, are asking for a weekend out to an Airbnb in the hills. Agreed I get a good package, but doesn’t mean I spend it all on a birthday. That too when I should be feeling sad that my 20s are over. And by the way, how juvenile were Lakshay and Dipti in the office today. Who rubs cake on the hair? Are we four-year-olds or what?
Birthdays in 40s : (Note: vaise, I’m not qualified to write about this age, but…ahem… I can imagine how it must be). Ab is umar mein birthdays ka kya, it’s for kids to celebrate. Remember my last holiday to Prague two months back? Well, I told my family to consider that as an advance birthday celebration. I’ll treat myself to the new spa in town. Birthdays are for introspection, for self-reflection. Let me get on with the Surya Namaskar.
Birthdays in 50s: Destination party my foot. Can’t take the entire WhatsApp group to Bangkok, can I? You and I will go for a quiet holiday over the weekend. For now, let’s just book a banquet hall in Punjabi Bagh, and get Jasbir Lassi to perform live. Matlab toh naachne se hai. And yeah, tell Sumit to keep Black Label on the counter, neeche Black Dog.
Birthdays in 60s and above: What a nice, lovely day. For once the whole family will turn up, even Rohan, he’s done with his board exams. Family is life, I tell you. Birthdays ka aur meaning hi kya hai. Oh, by the way, Meeta told me to acknowledge the wishes from Khanna on Facebook. He has written from Dallas. But saala password hi yaad nahi hai. Will ask Rohan to help.
Sonal Kalra has cleverly not revealed her age throughout the write-up. Vaise bhi 25 koi batane waali age hai? Send your wishes across, preferably cash. Mail her at sonal.kalra@ hindustantimes or facebook.com/sonalkalraofficial. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra
First Published: Mar 23, 2019 16:51 IST