Early in the morning, waking up to a call from your Mom to wish you on your birthday…isn’t that beautiful? And then if you’re able to wish her back, “A Very Happy Birthday to you to Amma!“…isn’t that what is called being blessed? Yes. I am a blessed child of the God who shares her birth date with her mother.
As a child this day meant a lot to me. First and foremost, because it was my birthday. And it was Amma’s birthday too. Without even bothering to ask her, I had myself decided and announced to the family that I was her birthday gift. No approval required. Isn’t it? Now that I look back I wonder if I actually was a gift or a punishment. How cool it would be to bear the bone-breaking labour pain on your birthday when you’re supposed to be celebrating it? And when I think of it I wonder if Ammamma (my grandmother) would have cursed me for all the pain I made her daughter go through.
I was born on the fourth Onam day and I share my birth star with none other than Sree Narayana Guru. But what always amused me was that in the Mathrubhumi Calendar exactly fourteen days after his birth anniversary was his death anniversary. I was proud of this faceless Guruji who managed to be a Guru in just about fourteen days of his life. Silly of me to not have realized that the death anniversary would have been on the date many years later. Innocent childhood!
One of the two dresses that we received annually was gifted around this day. Mostly depending on the Onam celebrations in school. It used to be my birthday as well as Onam gift. Amma would also buy me a pack of toffees/candies to be distributed among my friends and teachers at school. While in eleventh and twelfth grades the toffees and candies were replaced with Tularam ji’s bonda, cutlet or naariyal waala gulab jamun. Oh! How I miss him and his canteen. Scarcity actually teaches us to value what we have and what we get. Unlike children these days who rarely know the value of all that they have.
But the most important part of the celebration was the anxious wait for the birthday card and the accompanying letter from Acha which without fail included the phrase ‘the apple of my eye‘ which I would underline or highlight in every letter and read it out to myself at least a hundred times. The love for endearments is directly proportional to the distance between the two people involved. At least that’s how it was for me. Without these birthdays meant nothing. Thanks to the Indian Postal Service, I cheerfully celebrated 7 out of 10 birthdays because I received Dad’s cards and letters. And the 3 years when I didn’t receive his birthday cards and letters on time or lost them to the carelessness of the Postal Service, I bought books and tiny cards that I signed myself on behalf of Acha. I still have those copies of the Famous Five, Nancy Drew and Sidney Sheldon at my parents’ house.
We never celebrated birthdays because Amma is scared of celebrations. She is scared of being happy. She is scared of smiling and laughing. All thanks to the way she was brought up in a highly conservative atmosphere. I still remember her telling us not to laugh loudly and how Renu and I would protest with a ‘Kyun? Hasne par tax lagta hai kya?‘
As I grew up I too was not fond of celebrations. Visiting the temple, preparing a small sadya (feast) was all a birthday was for us. But my outlook changed the very moment I became a mother. I didn’t want my daughters to be scared of anything at all. I want them to celebrate every big and small achievements in life. I want them to learn to share their happiness with everyone else. That’s how cake-cuttings started at home with all your family around. And now Amma dresses up for her grandchildren and cuts the cake with the most lovely smile of hers. Waiting to make her day special. And the feast is always at the temple. An afternoon meal for at least hundred people. I prefer it that way. Vazhipadu or offering to God means Annadanam or food donation to me. I don’t believe much in anything else.
While most of the time we are busy discussing the evil side of social media, birthdays are those occasions which make you want to see the brighter side of it. Hundreds of friends. Sitting in various corners of the globe. Take those few seconds or minutes to wish you. All thanks to the reminder service from the social media platform or from a near and dear one who tags you announcing it to the world. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook inboxes and WhatsApp chats are overflowing. Gratitude to each one of you.
On this thirty-seventh birthday all I wish is to be a mother to my own mother and teach her to celebrate life. I want her to enjoy every single moment of her life. I want to see her smile without holding back. I want her to know that laughing loudly will not bring any misfortune to any of us. If I could, I would go back and make her rewrite her story as a strong and confident person. I will make her fight with those bullies in her hostel room. I will make her give it back to that dominating cousin of hers who broke her confidence. I would make her proud of herself and her achievements. She has taught thousands of students and a single visit to the temple or any other public place shows us how much she is loved by her students. She’s taught so many of them to be confident and fight for their rights.
Today also happens to be the fifth birthday of this virtual avatar of me. Yes. It was on 6th September 2011 that I started the blog with the address rekspoursout.wordpress.com. Of course, the first ever post was published in February 2012 only. So happy birthday Dew Drops! I’m so glad I decided to write and share.
Thank you to all you wonderful souls who took the time out to wish me! Thank you all for the lovely wishes! You made an ordinary day so special. Dil se Shukriya to each one of you.
A special note of thanks for the silent mentor-motivator-critic-support who puts up with me most of the time, the husband. And the wonderful girls whose cheered up faces light up my world. Love you!