Birthdays are days to celebrate yourself. As I look back to the many birthdays I’ve seen I realize that the ‘friends’ you celebrated your birthday with – with so much fanfare -- in the past, have gone out of your life now. It’s as though they never existed!
Remember the meticulous planning, the extravagant menu (always Goan) sourced from connoisseurs of taste, and the breathless guest list which was listed out weeks before the birthday? Yes, the terrace parties at my barsati in Delhi were much looked forward to. There, over chicken xacuti, pulao, - sometimes sorpotel – and definitely bebinca, with generous swigs of spirits we sat under the autumn breezes and beguiled the night.
Cut to Goa. Though I had thought up a guest list, people were too busy to make it for a Sunday lunch. Some were working, others preferred to attend a lunch on the same day hosted by a friend of mine. One round of invitations on the phone a week in advance came to naught – as some ‘friends’ did not even pick up the phone, or return the call. Days before the actual day I sent SMSs to all the friends again – I had to tell the caterer, didn’t I?’ -- but this time not without a sinking feeling. Only one confirmed.
I decided to junk the party. Maybe I was looking in the wrong place for happiness. Happiness was right here, right beside me, in my home with my family. The loving glances in the run-up to my birthday made me feel very special.
Lunch on Sunday, had only the family. Three generations partook of the delicious fare cooked by Queenie – mutton xacuti, chicken cafreal, fish pie, pulao and salad. Dessert was ice cream with chocolate sauce. On my birthday the next day I did not sit at home basking in self-glory. I went to work and felt very satisfied I was doing my duty.
Driving on the way back from the Goa University on my birthday -- a weekday -- after attending sessions which stretched from 10—5, I realized I had not received any cards. So I popped around to Archies and bought myself one. When I reached home a birthday cake was waiting. Dad gave me a beautiful card which read, ‘You learned to sing your own / song, you learned / to tell your own story and found / in your hopes and / dreams, your own special purpose.’
My take-away from this birthday was a tiny T-shirt which had the words ‘I Make the Sun Shine’ emblazoned on a scarlet red background over a tantric design. We are called to make the sun shine in the lives of others. I hung it in my car. This would be my purpose now. The culture of solipsism and excess must give way to reaching out to others, less privileged, who have more need for our love.
-------------------------------------------------------Barsati – a room on the terrace usually rented out as accommodation in Delhi; Pix. source: archiesonline(dot)com; this article was published in Gomantak Times Weekender Goa on 20 October 2013.