For the Birthday Bash Blog Relay. Excited to win Second Place!
Thankful Sonali HAPPY 21 WDC!
Entries to be judged:
"Day #1: A Pandemic-al Birthday."
"Day Four: SCARIEST BIRTHDAY EVER"
"Day Seven: AN INCONVENIENT BIRTHDAY"
Thanks! "2021 Blog Relay Winners!"
"Note: They came, they ran the race, they conquered! ..."
|Day Nine: THE BEST OR WORST
THINGS ABOUT BIRTHDAYS
Just as every coin has two sides
"Heads" and "Tails"
So each situation has a duality
"Successes" and "Fails".
Grasp the coin in your hand
You can't ignore one side
For the better or the worse
You must take the whole ride.
The best thing about a birthday
Is you get to be a year older
You've gathered more experiences
Perhaps you're getting bolder.
But the flip side of that
Is that the body's wearing down
You get more tired doing things
Smiling takes effort - so you frown.
Then there are the presents
Lovely things that should bring bliss
And all you can say is,
"Thanks, but where do I put this?"
The phone calls to be answered
Each message, each email
Brings tears of joy and gratitude
But - your hearing's getting frail
So it's an effort to respond
To the multitude
You're thankful for their wishes
But project a sullen attitude.
There might be a chocolate cake
That you just can't resist
You eat a great big piece
And your indigestion does persist.
At the end of the day you're glad
That it happened AND that it's done
But you wouldn't trade it for anything
Through it all, it was great fun!
So it's about your perception
Whether it's best or worst
It is what it is, you know
Are you blessed or cursed?
LINE COUNT - 40
|All Words: 652
A BIRTHDAY OF HISTORICAL PROPORTIONS
(A fictional account of Mahatma Gandhi's birthday.)
Dawn, October 2, 1946.
Bapu-Gandhi was at his spinning wheel as usual. "I was born to work," he told his disciples. "So to stop working on my birthday would be rather ironical, wouldn't it?"
His disciples grinned. They knew it would be of no use to coax Bapu (meaning 'Father') to take a day off. Once Bapu got something in to his head, it was impossible to dislodge it. If he wanted to work, he'd work. That was that.
They gathered round him, wearing the chaste white clothes they had made themselves, and sang his favourite hymn: Vaishanva Janato. Bapu listened, tears welling up in his eyes. What lovely people his disciples were.
"There are people to greet you, Bapu," Mira called out. "Women, and men, and children."
"Let them in, let them in," he said jovially.
The visitors didn't show their excitement. They calmly formed a queue outside the little room, and, at their turn, removed their footwear and entered. Once inside, each one touched Bapu's feet and made an offering. A basket of mangoes, maybe. Or a flower garland. Some of the children gave him toys or sweets. Bapu blessed each one in turn, and thanked them.
Last in queue was a young man in a bright red turban and blue dhoti. His torso was bare. He looked strong, his muscles gleamed. He didn't touch Bapu's feet. He merely handed him an envelope.
"Thank you, my son," Bapu said.
"I am not your son," the young man replied through gritted teeth.
"I am sorry," Bapu apologised. "Thank you, young man."
"Read it now."
Bapu opened the envelope. It was a two-page letter, with both sides of each page filled in with small handwriting. He read every word.
The letter criticised his appearance, his speeches, his strategy — it even ridiculed the title 'Bapu' for someone it said was so unworthy to be a father.
He read it through with no change in his expression. The young man watched him. Three disciples stood at the open doorway, watching too.
When he had finished reading, Bapu heaved a huge sigh. He then looked at the young man, gazing straight in to his face. "Thank you, young man, for you, too, have given me a gift."
So saying, he undid the little pin that held the two pages of the letter together and placed it neatly in a little box he had next to him. He then called to his disciples, "Will you take these bits of paper and use them as fuel? Everything must be used."
The young man looked like he was about to speak. Then he thought the better of it. He simply turned and left.
Bapu had a simple lunch of vegetables, rice and curd with a few of his disciples. On their insistence, he ate some sweets as well.
He then lay on his mat for a nap.
"Bapu, wake up, Bapu!" Mira's voice came urgently ten minutes later. Bapu sat up.
"What is it, Mira, what is it?"
"It's Lord Mountbatten to see you, Bapu!"
Bapu washed his face, and the visitor was let in.
"Happy Birthday, Bapu," Lord Mountbatten said.
"Thank you indeed," Bapu replied. "But have you brought me no gift?" His eyes twinkled.
"I have indeed brought you a gift, Bapu."
"Where is it? You seem to be carrying nothing."
"It is in the news I have to give you."
"Bapu — you have got the gift you have been fighting for. We are going to Quit India. You are now free."
Bapu took minutes to react. Then, his eyes streamed with tears. "Mira! Everyone! Come!"
The news spread through the 'ashram'. "We are free, we are free!"
Joyously, they burst in to the hymn, Vaishnava Janato.
Here's my Dad, about Mahatma Gandhi:
If you'd like to hear Bapu's favourite hymn:
|Day Seven: AN INCONVENIENT BIRTHDAY
Words: 627 (including the note)
I strongly advise all to-be parents to carefully plan the time of conception so that the child doesn't appear on Earth on the day that will, in future, mark the last exam of the year.
Especially when the last exam happens to be the Chemistry Practical exam, held in the laboratory. And, should parents be as careless as to conceive in such a way, to at least name the child alphabetically early, not 'Sonali'. Those with alphabetically-later names end up in the last batch of the Chemistry Practical, and their friends gain freedom before they do.
Anyway, there I was on my fourteenth birthday, measuring out the ingredients for some potion or other chemicals needed for the experiment, listening to the teacher's anxious announcements that oscillated between 'watch out for the flames on your Bunsen Burners' and 'keep all the windows open or it'll get too hot in here' and 'you have just half an hour left, girls, hope you're progressing.'
I was sweating, sure that my test-tube did not need to contain a viciously green compound at that stage of the proceedings, when a voice at the open window startled me. "PSSST. Sonali." I gave a violent jerk and the green thingie was all over my chemistry journal. "Sorry," the voice stated. "It's just that we've baked you a cake and are about to finish it so I came here to give you the last piece."
"I don't want cake now," I muttered.
"SONALI BHATIA!" the teacher's voice thundered. "What are you whispering? I thought you were a good girl, surely you're not cheating?"
Medha's head had disappeared from the window. I had no evidence. "Er – I was scolding myself for spilling some green stuff, Miss," I stammered.
"Clean it up at ONCE," she barked. I walked to the front of the laboratory, where she was holding out a rag for me to clean the mess. Since my table was at the back, near the window, and I had to weave my way through experimenting classmates and their Bunsen Burners, it took me a bit of time to fetch the rag and get back to my table.
When I got to it, I found a paper hat there, and a bottle of Coke. "No place for a plate with the cake on, so we are going to eat it," hissed a voice. I didn't dare respond. I cleaned up the green stuff but it had pretty much soaked my carefully-drawn diagrams by then.
I had forgotten the chemistry question. I re-read it, put the paper cap and Coke bottle on the floor, and re-started everything.
"You have ten minutes!"
Ten minutes? No way I'd be done in ten minutes. I was so distracted I didn't even realize that a hand was making its way into the window. It was only when I found my mouth forcibly filled with cake that I knew something was amiss again, and, due to the aforesaid cake, I couldn't even make a sound. The hand waved, and disappeared.
"Girls, I've been instructed to give ten minutes extra to anyone who needs it, if they speak up now."
"Ummmmf" I uttered, trying to make my voice heard through the cake. "Fffggg."
"Nobody? Good girls. I'll collect your papers on time then."
It is NOT very convenient to fail Chemistry on your birthday. Please don't put your child in such a situation. Plan your pregnancy. Let your child be born on a holiday. Or an ordinary school day. Or national hippopotamus day. Or something. Not on future Chemistry-Practical day. Please.
I guess I know what you're asking ▼
|Words: 837 (excluding the Author's Note)
Day Six: THE IDEAL BIRTHDAY PARTY
The child was excited. In two days' time, she was going to be five years old. Her parents had saved up, having small celebrations the previous years, to throw a really huge bash this year. They reckoned it was better for a child to be five or above for a big bash. "She'll then know it's her important day, and she'll remember it," they said.
They were right. She knew it was her important day. She knew family members were arriving from other parts of the state and the country to celebrate with her. She knew all her classmates and their parents were invited, as were all her teachers.
She was in the big hall her parents had rented for the occasion. Since there were no other events there in the meantime, they'd been allowed to come in and decorate. Some decorations were home-made, by the child and her older brother, and some were store bought. The decorations shone and glittered. Some of them could make a musical noise when anyone touched them. All of them were beautiful.
The cousins, aunts and uncles who had arrived from out of town were helping with the decorations and there was a lot of laughter. Her parents had hired a small fridge, too, and they stored the bottled drinks there, ready for the party.
The child could hardly wait. One sleep ... two sleeps ...
"IT IS MY BIRTHDAY!"
The morning was a haze of bathing, getting dressed, checking the last-minute items and gulping down a bit of breakfast. Then, they piled in to the car and headed for the hall.
It was her father who first realized something was wrong.
"Why is this gate locked? Why are there extra security guards?"
He slowed and halted at the gate, and leaned out of his car-window. "What's the matter?"
Two security guards came running up. "We're sorry, sir, we have orders not to let anyone in."
"But we've hired this hall, we've decorated it and the drinks are inside," the mother protested.
"We have our orders. You're not allowed. Nobody is."
The child's face crumpled. "What's happening, Pappa?"
The father knew, but how was he to tell his daughter?
He guessed it was the work of the religious head. The religious head had been against his marrying his wife, she being of a different sect. Their daughter was considered illegitimate. He had also chosen his daughter's name himself, a no-no in his religion. The priest was supposed to name any child born. So she was ex-communicated on two counts.
How cunning, to pretend to allow them the use of the hall, and block it at the last minute when nothing else could be done. To allow them to pay the rent and decorate and store the drinks, then bar the door. The man felt sick. And what was he to tell his weeping child?
The other car with the cousins in it drove up. Some classmates, who would have been early to the party, came along. The news had to be broken to everyone.
It was the youngest uncle who took the situation in hand. Quickly, he phoned the caterers. Had their van started out? Not yet? Good, hold it up, please, there was a change in venue.
A strategy-team formed itself with classmates' parents and family members. An alternative venue was decided upon - the public park nearby. "Nobody can stop us from using that." The caterers were informed. Text messages were sent to the guests. Guests informed other guests in turn.
Everyone headed for the park.
The youngest uncle led them deep within it, to a space which resembled a forest rather than a park. Most of the kids hadn't climbed a tree before, now, trees were the only seats they had. They climbed, they balanced on the branches, they held each other.
"This is fun!"
The caterers arrived. The guests climbed down and picnicked. Some of them carried their plates back up the tree and ate there. Then, they had a surprise. Two of the security guards were in their midst.
"What is the matter?" the youngest uncle asked. "We're not breaking any rules here."
"No, sir," one of the guards whispered. "Sir, we've brought you your drinks. And some of the more precious decorations. We couldn't take them all out or we'd be suspected. Take them quickly then we'll go back to our positions. And we're sending any guests who come along, here."
The guards disappeared.
The kids had the greatest round of hide-n-seek they'd ever known, finding places to hide in among the plants. The air was fresh, not like in the air-conditioned hall, and it was lovely to be outdoors with so many friends. There was much excitement when one of the younger cousins spotted a birds' nest among the branches, and when another saw a cocoon. "It's going to be a butterfly!"
There had been an ideal party planned. But the un-planned party was even better.
Author's note: ▼
|All Words: 949
Day Five: MUCH ADO ABOUT CAKE
There's a black-and-white photo of the moment somewhere. A photo that'd make you go 'aw' if you're the sort to go 'aw' at a photo of a seven year old girl hugging her two year old cousin.
The seven year old girl is now fifty-three years old and can confess, though rather shamefacedly, that it wasn't an 'aw' moment at all. You see, she (me, that is, as you've guessed) wasn't hugging him out of a rush of love or something.
I was hugging him purely for attention.
So here's what it was.
In India, we have two birthdays, one by the regular calendar that you know of (by which my birthday is Oct. 11) and one by the lunar calendar (by which my birthday is the day before the Duserah festival). The birthdays fall a few days apart, and every 19 years, they coincide.
Now for us so-called 'modern' kids, the calendar birthday, Oct. 11, was what was 'cool'. The traditional Indian birthday was considered old-fashioned.
Imagine my chagrin, then, when my parents, aunt and uncle decided to have a joint birthday party for my two-year-old cousin and me, which fell on HIS calendar birthday and my Indian birthday. How could I invite my friends on a day that wasn't Oct. 11, when all of them knew my 'real' birthday? I'd be the butt of all their jokes, being beaten to the celebration by a mere toddler of a cousin!
To add insult to injury, it was further decreed by my Grandma that since it was my Indian birthday ...
Instead, I'd have an Indian sweet, 'peda', which comes already in pieces and doesn't need to be cut.
"Won't I get any candles to blow out, either?" I pleaded, wiping my tears after my Nanny had broken the news to me.
"I'll put some candles on the plate of 'peda', darling," she replied.
At school, I handed out invitations to my classmates with deep apologies. It was on the wrong day and there was to be no cake, I warned them. At least, not for me. They'd eat my cousin's cake, not mine. They'd have to eat my 'peda'. They accepted the invitations with pitying looks. One or two tried to ask if they could trade the 'peda' for cake, but I said if they were planning that, I'd take the invitation card back and they couldn't come.
The day of the party arrived.
The table was all set.
One cake with three candles (two, and one for luck) and one plate of 'peda' with one candle in the middle. Apparently, Grandma had said the Indian sweet would spoil if there was too much heat around, so eight candles were not allowed. ONE candle. On my seventh birthday. Grown ups are cruel people. The table also had the customary sandwiches, chips and some short-eats that didn't interest me much.
Nothing interested me much. It wasn't my 'real' birthday and I wasn't going to be cutting a cake.
My friends started to arrive. I got presents. I wasn't allowed to open them at once, they were kept in the bedroom. His friends started to arrive. Family members. The place grew crowded. There were some games. Games for us big kids, games for those babies and a couple of combined games.
In spite of everything, I started having fun. He and I have an uncle in common who is really creative and loves kids, so the games were unique, lively and absorbing. My friends forgot to pity me and started envying me for having such a nice uncle. I was allowed to open TWO select gifts and was soon strutting about carrying a big doll in a green frock and green cap, and a huge box of crayons. Fifty shades, those crayons had. The biggest box money could buy back in those days.
Then – Grandma called everyone to attention. "Time for the snacks now!"
My heart sank. That meant cake and (shudder) 'peda' time, too.
Everyone gathered around the table. They sang to me first. I blew out the one candle and everyone clapped.
Then it was his turn and all eyes turned to the cake.
But (remember what I told you early on?) I wanted attention. I chose that moment to distract everyone from the cake. I yelled HAPPY BIRTHDAY to him, stuck a fake smile on my face, and gave him a bear hug. - Click - There's a black-and-white photo of the moment somewhere. It was me, trying to take the attention AWAY from the cake. His cake.
His Mamma came up. She tried to get him to hold the knife, so she could guide his hand to cut the cake. But he got scared of the shiny knife and looked ready to burst in to tears.
"There, there," his Mamma soothed him. "You don't have to hold the knife. Your big cousin can cut the cake for you."
Unable to believe my luck, I was carried on to a chair. My aunt gave me the knife to grasp and carefully helped me cut the cake. Everyone clapped. Hey, this was me and I was cutting cake after all! The smile in that pic was real, I can tell you.
The cake tasted good. The 'peda' tasted good. One of my friends actually remembered to come and tell me she liked it (urged by her Mom I guess) and it was good I hadn't let her trade it in for cake.
There are two black-and-white pics somewhere, one with a fake smile and one with a real smile. Much ado about cake.
|Day Four: SCARIEST BIRTHDAY EVER
My parents got married on 4th February, 1961 — two days after my Dad's 26th birthday. So his honeymoon was also an extended birthday celebration. This birthday-honeymoon was 'scary' on a couple of counts, one being a 'funny' scary and one an actually 'terrifying' scary. Both were the result of Dad trying to prove how macho he was.
Mom and Dad went to Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) on this birthday-honeymoon. They were booked in a reasonably fancy hotel, containing a restaurant that served traditional Ceylonese food.
For those unfamiliar with traditional Ceylonese food, let me tell you – it can be deadly. The tiny green-chillies sit there looking innocent, but they can set the hardiest mouth on fire.
Dad, being just-returned from a stint at UCLA, had acquired an 'American' mouth and stomach. My parents were at dinner, with a birthday cake all ready for cutting later, when he decided to prove to his bride that he could eat spicy food.
"Don't," she cautioned. "You are used to bland food now, don't try this."
Never say 'no' to a macho man, especially not if you're the woman he is madly in love with and keen to impress.
In all fairness to Dad, he took a teaspoonful of the spicy curry and mixed it into a whole bowlful of rice. He then nibbled at it, to test it out.
It took three seconds for the pain to start. It started at the back of his tongue and went up his ears and pierced his nostrils. His eyes turned to waterfalls.
Gasping, he downed his mug of beer and Mom's glass of orange juice. He then proceeded to grab fistfuls of birthday cake ('so disgusting!' is how Mom related it) and smear his smarting lips and tongue with the sweetness.
When he emerged from his fog, his new bride had disappeared. She was, the manager informed him, at the front desk phoning a divorce lawyer. She could NOT stay married to a man who smeared his face with birthday-cake in public.
My terrified father ran to the front desk and went down on his knees. He begged, he pleaded, he promised anything.
She didn't divorce him.
She thawed enough to forgive him. She thawed enough to even allow him a special birthday treat the next morning.
In those days, Dad was a SCUBA-diver and qualified lifeguard. One of the attractions of Ceylon was the diving there, especially at a beach called Hikkadua. He had arranged with his friends, Tony and Carle (locals who knew the coast well) to go out in a boat and dive. It wasn't Mom's thing, but the birthday boy was keen on it and she'd go on the boat for the ride.
"Now, Arun," Tony said to Dad, who was preparing to dive off the boat. "Remember what we told you. That side is dangerous. Keep to this side of the boat."
"Right," Dad replied, diving off.
Immediately, he decided to show off to his bride.
"NO, NO," Tony and Carle shouted, as he headed for the dangerous side.
Never say 'no' to a macho man if you are in a boat with the lovely bride he wants to impress.
He ignored the shouting. He ducked one wave. He knew waves came in pairs. He ducked another. Cheekily, he waved at the trio in the boat.
Another wave. He ducked. He ducked its partner.
He did NOT see the third wave coming. He was looking for the boat, wanting a glimpse of his bride's admiring face.
The third wave caught him by surprise. He was carried along, helpless, straight at some very jagged V-shaped coral.
On the boat, Tony and Carle were mouthing at each other to save Mom from hearing, "Poor guy, he was on his honeymoon, it was his birthday, too ..."
Mom hadn't quite realized the danger. "Where is he? I can't see him."
They wondered how to break the news to her. He had probably been cut. Badly cut. Very badly cut. "He WAS on his honeymoon" in the past tense.
"Oh, there he is, on that patch of sand," she said. "Arun, Arun, wait there, we'll come and get you."
They had to maneuver the boat from the other side, which took a bit of time. It was only when they neared that Mom realized her groom was bleeding badly from both arms. She turned, shocked, to Tony and Carle, in time to see them cross themselves in gratitude.
They didn't get divorced. Dad didn't become past tense. They were happily married for 45 years, till Mom passed away. (Hey they had to be happy, they had me, didn't they? )
Day Three: A FORGOTTEN BIRTHDAY
Wrapping paper on the floor
Mailman with packages at the door
The room strewn with gifts galore
And children screaming, 'We want more!'
'A toy train is not enough!
The woolen sweater is too rough!
This jigsaw puzzle is just so tough!
Give us more, give us more stuff!'
'My friend got a mobile phone
With a customized ring tone
This baby stuff makes me groan
* Blah-blah-grumble-sob-moan *.'
Their mother didn't know what to do
It was partly her fault, she knew
She had taught them 'me', not 'you',
And now, she was in a stew.
Doting as she was, she had to admit
She was about to throw a fit.
Her children were brats, no sugar-coating it
This behavior, she could not permit.
Finally she shouted above the din
"NOW all of you, quiet - and LISTEN."
They gasped and were quiet, you could hear a pin
And their mother, her tale did spin.
She reminded them of what they forgot
It was not about the stuff you got.
It was about the birth of a tot
In a manger, without even a cot.
This birthday, she reminded them,
Of a sacred place called Bethlehem
Where, more precious than any gem
A baby gurgled to three wise men.
This baby came to revive humanity
To remind us of faith, hope and charity
Bringing peace to town, village and city
so to fight for 'more stuff' was a pity.
"Thank you, Mamma, for reminding us
That it isn't nice to make a fuss.
We'll be grateful now, you can trust
And just say MERRY CHRISTMAS!"
Worst Present Ever
It took me a long time to forgive her. In fact, truth be told, I'm not sure I have actually forgiven her yet, except that it's not politically correct to admit to holding a grudge against such a close friend.
She is a close friend. We've seen each other through a lot. A mutual friend passed away of cancer. A year later, I had multiple eye surgeries. She came to hospital and helped Dad at the time. When Dad had spine surgery, she was there at the hospital, giving me moral support (and lunch).
So yeah, she's a close friend and according to her, the gift she ordered for me for my fiftieth birthday was something I'd like and use often. It was way over the usual budget for a birthday gift, but she splurged anyway.
And I was so angry when she sent me the link, saying 'this is what I ordered for you'.
It was an epilator.
Yes, a thing you use to remove unwanted hair.
According to her, I'd be happy to have it to quickly 'do' my face instead of booking a beauty-parlor appointment each time I had to get rid of my moustache and beard.
According to me, she should've asked first.
An epilator is a rather personal item. Simply ordering it without asking first said to me: "There's something ugly about you that needs correcting and I'm going to do it."
It's expensive. About four times the amount she would've spent on a usual gift.
And -- I can't use it. My facial hair is too dense, sending that much electricity in would harm my skin. Plus, my facial hair no longer has pigment. The electric current generated by the epilator needs pigment to get to the hair-root and do its work.
A lot of money spent on an item that's hurtful and useless to the recipient.
The good part?
She has facial hair, too. (Yes, that's the GOOD part! )
So it hasn't gone to waste, she's using it.
And it led to a long conversation between us. She has often criticized my clothes, shoes or haircuts. I told her she didn't seem tp be able to accept me as I am. She said it was to the contrary, she thinks I'm an amazing person and was only stating things that she felt would help me become more amazing. She also said that nobody ever 'guided' her about anything and she wished they would, so she was doing unto me as she wished someone would do unto her. Once she realized she was being hurtful, she apologized and things are a lot better now.
In fact, it got me thinking that maybe I've been insensitive to HER needs - she apparently wants others' opinions on her appearance, and I never comment on it!
So yeah, the thing may have been the worst gift, but the outcome was quite the best!
|Day #1: A Pandemic-al Birthday.
Don’t breathe each others’ air, they said
This pandemic means a lot to dread.
Stay indoors, meet only on Zoom
If you sneeze or cough, get a closed room.
So the family thought they’d celebrate
Keeping all the rules, yet making it great.
When my cousin turned sixty last September
His brother threw a party to remember.
Everyone he knew joined in
Friends, students, colleagues, kith and kin.
My cousin teaches classical music
He makes it fun, he makes it stick.
So, on the Zoom meet that day,
We heard his students sing and play.
I learned a lot about him I didn’t know before
He teaches music – and a lot more.
Some of them said he’s like a parent
Nurturing their growth, stern yet patient.
From him they learned to practice every day
To play while they learn and learn while they play.
This is something quite ironic
A celebration enhanced by the pandemic
These students, now scattered world-wide
Pandemic-ally, I had them by my side.
I wouldn’t have known what they had to say
If I hadn’t ‘met’ them online that day.
We got together because of covid
And I’m thankful that we did.
Till then, he was just a cousin
My Dad’s older brother’s son.
Now, he’s someone I’m proud to know
He’s helped so many performers grow.
Seeing their outpouring of gratitude
Has given me a whole new attidude
If it hadn’t been for the virus – covid
We wouldn’t have done what we did.
We’d have had a conventional party.
Joked around and eaten hearty.
But this way, we shared something deep
To cherish, to treasure – forever to keep.
"Day One Winner(s)"