Every 8th March, the phone would start ringing early in the morning. One of my Uncles is awesome about remembering everyone’s birthdays and is always the first one to call in the morning. The phone would actually ring ALL DAY! Without any exaggeration. In the evening my friends would come over. Aai would be cooking yummy things for my birthday, a gooey delicious chocolatey chocolate cake would be ordered. Building friends, school friends, college friends, cousins and family would all stop by with small gifts, cards and our small apartment would be filled to the brink with laughter, non stop chatter and a festive spirit. A new dress would be worn and compliments would be received by the truckload. Every birthday in India has been unique and fun! I have so looked forward to my birthdays in India. One birthday, my best friend brought a watermelon to class which I cut like a cake during recess. Another birthday my Mom packed bhel and juice for us which we took to a park nearby and ate on the green lawns. An 18th birthday I had renounced material things (only for one day) and had told everyone I didn’t really want any jewellery, gift items etc; result was being presented with love birds, sparrows, fish tank complete with fish…..Every birthday was special in its own way.
So when I moved to the US, I was plunged into depression and loneliness when my birthday approached. I was working with a CPA firm at the time and it was tax season, which meant long hours. On my birthday, my seniors pushed me out of the office on time, to go home and enjoy. As I opened the door to my house and walked in, I saw P video shooting me. One by one my brother, my sister in law, my sister and my brother in law stepped into view!!! It was the most amazing surprise ever!! I was so shocked and thrilled!! They had flown and driven (respectively) hundreds of miles to be with me. Needless to say I had an awesome time on my birthday. The weekend zoomed by with siblings around me. Loved it!
Slowly over the past ten years, anticipation and eagerness of my birthdays has dimmed a little. I guess they have transferred to R’s birthdays now and Christmases and Diwali celebrations which are planned with more gusto and friends/family gathered. My own birthdays are very low key now. With the advent of internet networking sites like Facebook and Orkut, I received many many messages wishing me but I still miss the phone ringing off the hook. Of course my cell phone kept buzzing all morning but as I was in a meeting, I had to ignore the calls (India US time zone differences kya karey!). I am lucky to have family here and we did go out to eat but it wasn’t the same. I miss my parents, my friends, my siblings, my cousins; a happy event is not the same without loved people to celebrate it. I have still dressed up, received compliments from co-workers unaware of my birthday, for the shocking fuchsia pink blouse I am wearing today. P is insisting on accompanying me to the mall to buy something of my own choice for myself. We will go out to dinner but it is not the same anymore.
In India you didn’t just go shopping unless it was a special occasion. Here in the US, we go shopping so frequently, in the winter especially. Every long weekend, there is a sale going on, I window shop even though I don’t need anything and pick up bargains when I see them. The fun of buying something for a special day is lost when you shop all through the year. I miss those trinkets which my friends used to pool money together to buy; as we grew older, our contributions grew bigger resulting in expensive gifts but it was so precious, those gifts which my friends spent so much time scouring different shops, shopping for me and their delight when I wore the earring, necklace, bracelet, kurti, tshirt etc…..the numerous birthday cards, especially the ones which one or the other random guys would give, which we would read into unnecessarily, trying to decide if he had a crush on me or not etc.
I guess I will celebrate my birthdays through R now as I watch her delight and excitement when her birthday approaches, her excitement at ordering that Dora or Mickey Mouse or Barney cake, her jumping up and down with happiness while getting dressed in her special birthday dress and greeting visitors at the door, her squealing with delight when she tears open the wrapping paper off the countless gifts she receives. And one day, I hope she also looks back at her childhood and her birthdays and thinks about how special and wonderful each of her birthdays was…
For the time being I am grateful for my wonderful husband who knows how much birthdays mean to me and is trying to make it a special day. I mean, he even called me at work to just chat!!! ;)
Thank you God for a wonderful life, a wonderful husband and a wonderful daughter! Thank you God for giving me the opportunity to nurture another baby and no matter what that blood test says tomorrow and whatever the outcome of this pregnancy is, I am eternally grateful for the thousand other good things in life you have bestowed upon me. All my days are special because of it…Thank you…