<%-- Page Title--%> Slice of Life <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 128 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

October 31, 2003

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The Birthday

Richa Jha

The day the loud ring of the telephone pierces the quiet of my house even before the sun is up, I know it has to be my birthday. Not that I usually forget my special day, because even as the clock strikes midnight the previous evening, the calls start coming in from my friends. At this hour, it is invariably the monkey brigade (or so The Hubby refers to my friend-circle) that calls up. The immediate family, and other relatives stick to the more, as they see it, respectable hours of dialling the numbers.

Part genuine mirth on being a part of the other person's special day, part desire to be seen as being the 'first' one to have called up, the well wishers dash for the phone sets as little children dart across the assembly hall to stand first in the queue. Which is why you receive a string of phone calls in quick successions even as you are dying to drop dead. For the last two years though, I've discovered most of my friends call up and say, “Hieee! LOG ON, LOG ON”, and click, the line goes dead. The chats then happen on the Messengers till I roll off the chair and bump my head on the floor. “What a spoil-sport”, they type back.

While it is flattering to think that one is still remembered fondly by many, for an early-to-bed person like me, I'd much rather wait till next morning for these wishes. But again, morning as you and I know it; not when the sun too is hours away from showing up.

So what about those pre dawn calls? In my case, the usual contenders for the early calls are my parents, my in-laws, and my brother. Who finally calls up first is a function of who forgot to set the alarm the previous night, and whose long distance call managed to come through without a glitch.

This year, I prepared for the inevitable at bedtime by placing the mobile phone right under the pillow, but this time the land-line rang. Disoriented, dazed, I dashed across the entire length of my flat, feeling annoyed at The Hubby for having wilfully placed the telephone in the room farthest from the bedroom. Who could that possibly be. I ought to have known, even as I fumbled through the rooms in the dark.

Had to be my brother, voice says, “May the Good Lord deliver you from darkness unto light, may He improve your sense of direction in the dark, and may He…Happy Birthday sis”, said my brother at the other end, suppressing his giggles. The timepiece next to the phone read 4:30am. Which meant that I had slept for precisely two hours. Which also meant it was just 4am in the city he was calling from.

“What perverse pleasure did you get out of this? And don't you tell me that you woke up this early to wish me. Out, out with the truth.”

“What makes you have such self aggrandised notions of yourself? Huh, alarm for you and all that! I'm on my way back from a party, and once I hit the bed, I don't see myself waking up before late evening. Just saving you the mental trauma of feeling that your dear brother forgot you on your birthday. But I see no reason for you to celebrate. You are old now. High time you accepted that…”.

The morning shows the day. As always, The Hubby was the last to wish me, because he is the first one to go to bed, and the last to wake up.
“Gee”, he beamed, “it's going to be fun today. It's your birthday, and you shall have the time of your life (ttoyl). To begin with, I've taken a day off work!” That's bad news spelt in upper case Arial Black.

“I have it all fixed. Today we gorge on sumptuous treats of English breakfast and a Continental lunch, and…”, he announces.

“Hallo! Don't you think we should have what I like best? After all, it's my special day! Let's have parathas this morning, and South Indian fare for lunch, and…”

“Relax, who says you can decide what you do today. Leave it all to me, you shall have ttoyl.”

Mid morning I was informed that we were to go swimming. “Swimming?” I freaked, “in this bright sun?” I refused to budge.

With pain writ large over his face, he said, “you don't think I love you? It is all for you, isn't it? See how well I have planned this day to make you feel special. Trust me, you shall have ttoyl…”

“Alright, let's go, do I have a choice?” I said. I realised he had already put my kit together.

I had the time of my life. I was made to sit through a silly computer game when I wanted to watch Kasauti… in the afternoon, I was under house arrest watching some archaic war film when I was desperate to go shopping, I was bought several paperback thrillers (which I know I'll not touch ever) as my birthday present when all I really wanted to pick up was the latest issue of Vogue, and so on.

Which is why I was quite circumspect when that door-bell rang in the late evening. Imagine my surprise then, when I open the door to find two faces hiding behind a massive basket of orchids, who instantly burst into a rapturous “Happy Birthday”. Who should they be our close friends from Mumbai!

What a delightful surprise it was! It later turned out, this too had been planned by The Hubby. “So, did you have ttoyl? Ooooh! Don't we love that tan on you? How was lunch today, Rich? Show us what he bought for you…”, my friends teased me ceaselessly. It took me no time figuring out that all the annoyances had been carefully planned and gradually built-up for this grand finale. Could I not, then, have had the most rocking birthday this time? I had had the time of my life. Finally!


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