The reason I’m writing this so late in the day is that I’ve been confused as to what to call this post. I started from a short list of maybe a dozen names, and then brought the list down to two – “twenty six” and “twenty fucking six”. Finally I decided to go for the former since the swearword in the latter doesn’t seem to add much value.
If I were to count my years using letters of the English alphabet, I would today increment it from Y to Z, taking into consideration that the Gregorian calendar may not be perfectly accurate. However, for this kind of a time horizon, and given our desired least count, it is definitely more accurate than the Hindu calendar so we will stick to it. Ok, if you have still not got the point, “aaj mEra happy birthday hai“. Imagine me wearing a yellow suit and shouting that line upwards as you look down from your balcony.
My original plan was to write about birthdays itself, as to how they seem to have lost significance, and as I’ve grown older, and started feeling old, they seem to have been reduced to a counter. I was planning to write about how I have to go really long back in order to find a memorable birthday, and about how it’s generally been a disappointment in recent time.
Vyshnavi Doss, who is older than me by ten days, decided to use her Twenty Sixth by writing something on these lines. It was as if she was exploiting her seniority by taking away words from my fingers. Here is a quote, but I urge you to read the whole thing. I completely empathise with the first part of the essay.
Now this is going to sound nutty, but I used to feel more pressure than elation on my birthday. Not counting my school years of course. That was when by default, either you distributed sweets to everyone at school, or your mom hosted a party for you and you got all the attention and gifts. Your birthday was announced at the assembly, your classmates sang for you, and you pretty much owned the day! Those were the protected years. Then I got into college where I had to work my way up towards making friends. I am a confirmed ambivert. I am a friendly person, but not necessarily popular in the zillion people on my friend-list sense of the term. So the birthday situation after I left school had always been very iffy – there was noone to really ensure it was special. To give me that “Surpriiiiiiseee!!!” People have always mattered a lot to me, and I believe that a good birthday is made up by the people around you. And while my birthdays after school were simple and pleasant, my expectation of something utterly out of the world remained the same. So the worry on my birthday could be attributed to mainly two things – a small closeted social circle, and high ambitions. Often my expectation has been met with disappointment. Don’t get me wrong – of course my parents, my relatives and my close friends have made all the effort in their capacities to make my day special. And I have been happy. But I think I’m quite a tough-to-please person. I’ve always wanted that climax.
Instead, I think I’ll do one of those this-day-that-year things. Given my superior long-term memory, I think this is the kind of stuff that I’m likely to be good at. Here are some excerpts.(rest under the fold)
A. Obviously I dont’ remember much about this, but there are a couple of pictures (not in digital format) which tell me that this was the day I first managed to stand without any support. My mother informs me, however, that I was able to talk fluent Kannada by this stage.
E. This was the first time that my birthday was celebrated in a grand manner. For most kids, it happens on their first birthday, but when I was celebrating my first birthday my parents were in the process of building a house, and we can say that conditions weren’t ideal to host a grand party. So on the fifth it was. There were thousands of guests that day. No cake-cutting, of course (my parents didn’t believe in this “alien concept”). But there was lots of really good grub. Lots of presents, too. I remember getting at least two cricket bats – the Ravi Shastri bat and the Azharuddin bat. Later on in life, whenever i wanted to bat slowly or practice, I’d use the former. And use the latter when i was playing a competitive game.
I. The beginning of what has been a long and fruitful cricket-watching career. India was playing West Indies at Perth that day. And what a game it was. I was watching it in my grandmother’s neighbour’s place (since my grandmother’s place had only a Black-and-white TV). When I started watching, West Indies were 8 for 80 chasing India’s 126. I remember Ambrose whacking Kapil for a six, and then kissing his bat. The match ended in an exciting tie, with Sachin getting the last wicket.
J. Maybe the most famous of all my birthdays. It was a Sunday and there was a party at home. Again no cake. But lots of cricket, and hide and seek, and other random games. We switched on the TV in the evening, after my friends had left, and found that the Babri Masjid had been demolished that day. There were two immediate consequences – no school for the next few days, and the closure of my RSS shakha which meant that I needed to find something else to do in the evenings.
O. Saturday. The usual stuff. All classmates down at my house for a round of cricket and lunch. People had started growing up. Girls had started giving cards. One of those happened to be from the girl I was supposed to be hitting on at that time. My mom wasn’t amused and after a few days went to school and met the said girl.
P. Sunday. New school. New set of friends. Dinner at home with them. No cricket. Two girls had turned up. Parents thought one was a monkey, while they really liked the other – a few months later, I was going to hit on that one. The next day was also quite interesting.
Q. Non-descript. Classes had ended in school . we had some preparatory test that day. Had gone to school. Distributed chocolates. One girl told me my handshake was weak and spent the following few minutes helping me firm it up. I still owe her for that one.
R. College. Vacations. Friends at home for dinner on my terrace. Had sent invites by email and no one had bothered to check it. Then called up each one and invited. Good time.
S. Started in a train from Madras to Bangalore. India had beaten England at Mohali in a Test match the previous day. I had also done rather well in that term. Was on a high. Dinner with friends happened. Was really enjoyable.
T. Spent in college doing assignments. No bumps – the term was over and there werent’ too many people left over to deliver them, and those that were were also busy with their assignments. Had and Operating Systems presentation that day, and the prof fell asleep midway through our talk. Dinner in the Mega Mess.
V. Had gone to Nandi Hills the previous day on a school picnic. Followed that up with dinner at Indi-Joes. Fondue etc. People had made a “birthday chart”. It was supposed to be mine but was full of pictures of Exception. There was even a disclaimer “this is Wimpy’s birthday chart. not Exception’s”. I remember Exception’s mom being on campus that day. I don’t know if she saw the chart. Had an assignment submission the next day. Teammates as usual freerode and I spent all evening toiling alone.
W. Parents gave me a bean bag as a present. Dad thought it looked like a bear and so nicknamed it “Karadi”. We still refer to it by that name.
X, Y. NED
Z. Relatives expected for dinner but that has nothing to do with my birthday. This visit was long overdue. Kodhi is in Delhi, and is expected to materialize in a few hours. He’ll be staying over. Has been a normal weekend day, except for the phone calls. Lazing at home. Watching TV. Going to a mall..
Twenty Six seems like yet another normal increment, unlike twenty four and twenty five when I suddenly started feeling significantly older. The only significant thing about this might be that my mom has asked my uncle to enter me into the arranged marriage market. Even that will be taken up slowly for now. So it is just an increment in a number that I might be required to fill in certain forms, or tell when people ask. Twenty Six. Twenty Fucking Six.
Jai Shri Ram