Monday, April 30, 2012

The Boy Who Had Three Birthdays

As a kid, I liked birthdays.

Okay, so what, everyone likes birthdays, what’s new about that?

No, when I say I liked birthdays, I mean it in a crazy way, as are most of the other things in my case.

I simply loved birthday parties, especially when they were mine.

You know, the usual, you get to cut a cake, everyone in the class stands up and sings happy birthday, you distribute toffees to the whole class and the teachers, you get to eat your favourite dish i.e. Chhole Puri with your friends and the most important one: you get presents, the element of mystery while opening the present, and the joy one feels if the said present turns out to be a toy!

For a good amount of time, birthdays had become major milestones in my life. The only problem with the things you like is, you eventually start wanting more of them. That’s what happened to me.

I distinctly remember that particular day.

I was in senior kg back then. That day one of the kids celebrated their birthday in the class. Now, it had been 4 months since I celebrated my 4th birthday. But I guess you all know how we have a slightly distorted view of the concept of time as kids.

So, when I got back home, I asked my mother when is my birthday coming? She looked quizzically at me. “You just had your birthday 4 months ago, dear. It will come next year now.”

Wrong answer. Tantrum time!!

“But ABC (Okay, it is good enough I remember this incident; Bacche ki jaan loge kya???) had his birthday today. Even XYZ had his birthday yesterday; So, why can’t I have my birthday?”

“Dear, your birthday comes on first may. Today is XX August. Now, count how many months are still left to your birthday? (Yeah, that’s how my mother manipulated me into math and stuff)

“No, that won’t do. You are lying. It's been such a long time since my birthday. It should have come by now!  I want my birthday today.

And either the tantrum must have been terrible or I must have been a very persuasive child, for what happened next does not generally happen with normal kids.

What I next remember is myself latching on to my mother’s finger, as she would first take me to the shopping center to buy toffees; and then to my school. Since, it was KG, we had school only until 1130 in the morning. So, by now only the teachers would be left at school.

My mother would take me to the staff room where all the teachers would still be sitting, where I would distribute the toffees as my mother would stand aside apologetically. I didn’t know back then, but now I suspect there must have been some back-channel talks between my mother and the teachers before all this. Done with the teachers and if I recall correctly, the principal too; the rest of the toffees would be distributed to all my playmates in the evening.

The elder ones would ask me. "How is it that your birthday comes so early every time?"

And I would proudly tell them. " I have my birthday two times every year", as all of them looked on in wonder and as I like to believe, envy too.

At night, there would be Chhole Puri in dinner for me. And I would be satisfied.

But not for long.

In fact, I had three birthdays that year. The two fake ones working out in exactly the same fashion.

As I grew older, and got a hang on the concept of time; I started finding joy in my friends’ birthdays, so there was no need to celebrate my own every 4 months or so!

Vyom (An Ode to a dear friend), Purbash, Pranjal; their birthdays became the new milestones in my life. I would enjoy all that I did in my own birthdays in theirs too. I learnt to share happiness.

Fast forward to adolescence.

Over the years, I turned into a reclusive being. I did not like large gatherings (Not a party person). I scoffed at the very idea of wasting money in parties when more than a million Indian kids go to bed on an empty stomach.

But, now I am loosening up. The last year has opened up my character quite a bit. I do not know if it is for better or worse; I guess I will just do it and see how it works out for my conscience. So, after ten years, I am going to celebrate my birthday once again.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Back Benchers- Embracing the Dark side of Force

From ever since I can remember, I have been sitting on the very front benches of the class; right from kg, and through my college days.

Though I believe the practice must have started off as a consequence of my less than average height and poor eye-sight; the fact remains that the front benches have been the most prominent of the many constants of my student life.

Anyone who has had the fortune, or rather lack of it, of sitting on the front benches, might concur with me, that doing so requires the rare combination of concentration, stamina and patience.

Concentration and unwavering attention, for when you find the topic interesting enough; patience to still be attentive towards a topic, that in your personal opinion, the world could better do without. And above all, stamina, not to inadvertently tear away your mouth in a silent roar (yes, I mean yawn) when the speaker is standing right in front of you.

If not for these virtues, sitting on the front benches is pretty much a suicide mission, best left to trained professionals or adrenalin junkies.

So, having not had the experience of ever having sat on the back benches, I was in a bit of a fix when during one of the Soft-skills training sessions that I have at work, I found all the rows occupied, except for the very last one. For a few seconds, I just stood at the entrance, as if somehow people at the front would start vanishing into thin air to make place for me.

Now that I think about it, I must have looked awfully stupid doing that.

Well, so I reached at the back of the room and occupied a seat. And the class began.