Saturday, 6 August 2011

MEMORIES : Ohh Birthdays....

Happy Birthday Mummy…You’d be 85 today, if you were around. I wonder how different all these years would have been for you? Were there never happy moments? Why does my memory seem to be cluttered with hurt and pain? 6th August somehow came and went without much-a-do. Your birthdays till you were around for the nine years of my life I know were quiet. Did we ever celebrate?

Birthdays are meant to be happy days. Through the years of schooling, the birthday girl would be dressed in her Sunday or party best. That was the cue for the class teacher to notice it was a student’s birthday…then she’d call the birthday girl to the front of the class. This was her show time, her moment of glory, where she would stand on a foot high platform and then the whole class would sing Happy Birthday…her face would gleam bright as ever…and she’d wear this broad air-hostess-smile, that stretched from one ear to the other (the genuine ones). After the class belted out happy birthday at their best ever vocals, followed the claps, as per the age. Then came the reward…how anxiously every classmate would wait for her to open that magic box for from it came the Cadbury’s Eclairs or Parle’s Kiss Me or Ravalgon…the beaming Birthday girl would find many a best friend or a wanna be best friend who would hope to escort the birthday girl around to the teacher’s/staff room, principal’s and headmistress’ office. Often if it wasn’t for the dress the birthday girl wore, you would wonder who really the birthday girl was. A class would normally consist of 65-70 or more students…so that was quite a number to cater to in addition to all the teachers in the school, plus friends in other classes. That would be enough for half an hour away from class. One period of study time…but the teachers were smart too…they would let you distribute the sweets when the subjects were the easier kind like singing, drawing, needle-work!!!

I, do not recall prancing about in my Sunday best at school... Could it be because my birthday would fall o'er the weekend? I always went to school in uniform and the day was pretty normal for me. This was because Dad had a different theory. After mass, channa (boiled grams)sprinkled with coconut would be ready, and that would be distributed to the 25 families in our Catholic housing society until the time it was affordable to do so, then somewhere down the years it stopped. I do clearly remember the one occasion I distributed sweets in school after helping myself to the house kitty without letting anyone at home know…I’ll remember that birthday forever…My dad strictly followed the system of “spare the rod and spoil the child”.  My neighbours and Uncles Johnny and Tony would often question dad about the rope on the door handle…for when it came to correcting us the rope spoke…ouch it still hurts dad…but I have learnt well from it. And while I wonder if it could have been done differently, I still think you did what YOU thought was best for me or us three.

Now, not all was as glum n gloomy as I make it out to be…on my 21st birthday,

my Aunt Elizabeth and cousins were over to celebrate the only ‘party’ I remember ever having, at home…

the rest, prior to and over the years have been fairly quiet, a deliberate choice of not wanting to make a tom-tom. Once I started working an occasional dinner with friends at a restaurant to mark the day would suffice.
Then my 30th I had a few of my “padre friends”, Shra and family (then we shared a better relationship) celebrate with me at a restaurant in BOM. In all of the excitement I did not realize that there was no film in the camera…ha ha….yup that was before digital cameras were as easily and economically available, thanks to a friend who also carried her camera, I have a few pictures.  

My 33rd birthday in Hong Kong was a blast, the party went on till sunrise. This was another first...the first time I really "partied" and entertained a houseful of friends.

I find it fake now and as if putting on a show to invite friends over to a place that is supposedly home… Actually this so called ‘home’ or what used to be home until our parents were around is a little 310 sq. ft pad that till today is the bone of contention between the three of us and clouds further my memory.  And so for a good few years I had an undisclosed home away from home and a family I thought I could count on ALWAYS… where I would go to celebrate my birthday.,but even that has been short lived... Influenced by the experiences of my childhood I generally keep it low key.

I began writing this when the phases of the moon and lunar eclipse swung my mood and thinking. Less than 24hours later an invitation was extended to me to an evening of canap├ęs and snacks and a briefing on the works of International China Concern. Like a bolt from beyond it struck me how very fortunate and blessed I am to be able to LIVE and to be able to celebrate 43 years of life!! IT IS A DAY I AM EVER THANKFUL FOR, the gift of life and the number of years I have been blessed with even if it is not a PARTYYY!!! of the kind we all know.