This is an argument long overdue. I had been willing to write this down on the eve of my birthday. But my plans of reading a book I longed for and reflecting on my 22 years, were thwarted by a frenzy of birthday wishes. I was told from my early years, not to be impolite especially on my birthday, when people are staggeringly kind to me in letter at least. As spirit is rather elusive.
So here I take the freedom to be a little evocative.
I am not ‘anti- celebration’. Celebration now looks paradoxical as the doom and gloom of covid has taken even a modicum of joys away from us. Anyway, given the numerous moments in our lifetime, when we aren’t able to turn lemons into lemonades, despite our desperate attempts, we do need something to feel good about ourselves. And birthdays are the epitome of self importance and mere existence. But is there an inveterate spirit with which birthdays should be celebrated? Depends upon the personalities you are referring to?
I am an avid supporter of remembering and relishing the contributions- some great men made to the world.Nobody cares about great women anyway!The ‘Jayantis‘ of great men are usually accompanied by an ostentatious display of veneration and also holidays. So no reason to rue such days of reckoning!
THAT said, ordinary people are those who bring extra to the ordinary. As greatness is often proportional to the impact on ordinary lives. Moreover ordinary people are the self acclaimed heroes of their little worlds. So they should be brought to spotlight. Spotlight wouldn’t come to them easily. But the ‘ordinariness’ unsettles me. The ritualistic banality of birthdays is humanity’s greatest folly. A bit exaggerated but not unreal. Usually rare are the moments, when invitations to birthdays come for birthdays only. There are underlying reasons. Really petty, shallow and insipid factors, which are synonymous with overarching humane tenets. Innocuous show-offs, noble infatuation with grandeur and even ersatz narcissism come in handy for us poor humans. This is true for those also who don’t celebrate birthdays. But the selfishness of humans masquerading as an expansion of inclusivity is rampant particularly in birthday parties. This is common in both kids and adults. However under the facade of innocence, kids’ selfishness is never admitted or even considered. Albeit kids are unconscious of this congenital human trait. They are thrilled about birthdays of their own and of friends alike. On a kid’s birthday, she gets to be the prima-dona. She gets the gifts, cake, blessings and attention. On her birthday her friends and ‘unfriends ‘ look at her with awe, as if it’s an achievement to be born on some random day. Kids are innocent in this sense. They really feel that on her birthday a person becomes superior than others. And from such decorated one -day superiority, kids want the usual dividends in terms of chocolates and usual conviviality. Not so selfish though, as kids don’t ponder over the idea of happiness. They think it is natural and ubiquitous. Being sad is something of an aberration- odd and misplaced, for them.In contrast, adults project their wanna be didactic ideas in the form of thoughtful birthday wishes, often copied brazenly from the internet. Like the same trite Diwali and morning greetings. Earlier thoughts found utterance on paper, now social media is the paraphernalia of the masses. Adults are more avaricious for this festival of growing older. They plan it all tacitly. My female friends want to celebrate their birthdays because they think it is their prerogative. Surely it is. Little caveats as writing lyrical appreciation in whatsApp posts, monotony of finding the right gift and pretending to be really excited are there. But cake, food and other party stuff alleviate such ordeals in the end.
Like everybody else this is incontrovertible that for your friends sometimes one should do things that make them happy. But I can write about their good qualities on any day, even on mundane Mondays. A person doesn’t really need to feel good on her birthday only. Kindness even for your fiercest adversaries shouldn’t be preserved for one day only. A phenomenon I have experienced as the inimical lot would also wish you happiness and good health for the sake of just saying this. Anyway, birthdays have also evolved. Gen-Z’s have devised their ways though more innovative than our predecessors. A little corollary follows as: my really close friends post on whatsApp or any social media platform with pictures of me both horrible and decent ( I don’t have good pictures) about how crazy, good, funny and sometimes diabolical I can be. The posts are generally more than one. However my close friends, who are ironically writing- averse end up posting a single picture with the sacrosanct ” Happy birthday “. And the acquaintances just text with the same empty wish.This is how our generation assesses the resilience and strength of bond with people. My friends are excited about my birthday too. Something I find bewildering. They keep asking about my plans and the dress I am likely to wear. Yet I feel no compunction at pandering to such nascent zeal from people I really value. Nobody will tell you about the significance you hold in their lives unless you’re dying or it’s your birthday.There is no dearth of time. But it’s easier said than done. It would be more sumptuous to acknowledge our collective togetherness and dependence on each other in the middle of any monotonous day. Your affection to a person shouldn’t be measured in terms of the price of the gift or the gift itself or even the formality of saying ” Happy birthday “. Anyone who comes to know your birthday through social media will wish you, possibly without even sparing a thought for you. Good for you if that’s what counts to you. I would rather prefer my bunch of people who will remember every absurd and frivolous piece of information but will forget your birthday every time. And they are the ones I think highly of. So it’s great to celebrate someone’s presence ostensibly on a day she was born. It’s also fine to bring gifts, if you can as a gesture of goodwill, affection or out of ‘ formality’. It’s alright, somewhat wonderful to enjoy yourself with people you like and liked at different stages of life. It’s optimistic to look away from your shrinking age to marking another year of your life. But I say it for the sake of saying. Because we must realise that it is legitimate to not do none of these ‘ it’s okay things’, lest I will keep berating them- both birthdays and people who make a big deal of them( birthdays). Someone who doesn’t celebrate her birthday and isn’t bogged down by conventional euphoria, can be a good or happy person like the rest. Huhh