Thank you all for your love!
(Photos by Amruta Nargundkar)
(Photos by Amruta Nargundkar)
When I was growing up, my birthday was rarely celebrated on the date.
I was born on the day of Diwali. Mother doesn’t tire telling everyone that I was born at the most auspicious hour of Lakshmi Pooja muhurt- on the most important day of Diwali- which is the most significant and favourite festival for most Indians. Thence, it was always a double celebration for the family at Diwali with my birthday thrown in.
My grouse that we didn’t do anything on the “real” birth day, could not stand up to Mother’s most enthusiastic, “Look, the whole world is celebrating your birthday on Diwali! The best day of all days!”
My first memory of a celebration was in kindergarten are around half moon karanjis and a return gift for each child of a notebook and pencil. I have a memory of Mother bringing in a steel container of those home- made karanjis for the class kids of Shishu Vihar. I also remember she had got with her my “birthday frock” and dolled me up at school.
But perhaps I didn’t need to rack my memory. This became one of the umpteen and oft-quoted anecdotes of Mother’s about her special sartor, the traitorous “always late Yadgiri Tailor”. It seems he had once again broken his promise on the delivery of the beautiful baby pink Hakoba lace frock, but Mother had sat in his shop (in Indian parlance- on his head!) till he finished sowing the last button on.
When I look at my childhood photos, I realise those tailored frocks were really pretty. In my world now a tailored frock for a kid would be considered an uber luxury. However, the little me considered it not cool. All my thin, slim friends could fit into “readymade” dresses. But not me, as they didn’t make plus sizes in kids clothes – for that matter in any ready to wear clothes.
So when an uncle gifted a ready made frock from an upmarket kids’ store called “Little Shoppe” one birthday, my joy knew no bounds. Moreover, it was a boxed gift, wrapped in shiny paper.
Very like the birthday a Pinky or Deepu from Hindi films would receive.
The box contained all the excitement and charm of the little red frock Jaya Bhaduri got from a doting brother in the film Guddi. I felt so fashionable! So posh!
The frock and the joy didn’t last long as it burst at the seams the first time I tried it on. I insisted it fit me very well, but Mother wouldn’t hear my pleas to mend the split sides.
It was not worth it, according to her, but certainly was worth spending one afternoon fashioning out a shopping bag out of it.
My ideal birthday party was only found on silver screen. There was something so compelling about the kids parties in the Hindi films of my childhood. I am talking about the song and dance (the Twist!) routine, the short frocks and white long-johns and shoes, the party games, twisted paper streamers, concertina garlands and speckled balloons kind of a party. There would be an array of toys and gifts on a table and sweets and samosas. Turbaned and cummerbunded and funny waiting staff went around serving orange and rose coloured drinks to all the little guests!
On my 14th birthday, my last one while in school, I insisted on having a birthday party for my school friends, for which Mother and Dada did their best. Dada made mixed out wonderful milk shakes for the girls in our newly acquired Sumeet Mixer, a novelty for us in those days. A few years older to me and a real charmer, he had a field day with the girls.
That was the time when I was into Mills and Boons romances, so I got 7 of those as gifts from my friends. That seemed like a treasure, but when one considered that we would knock one down in an hour and a while, this trove wouldn’t have lasted long, I suppose.
Having said that, there was something thrilling about being the first one to read a brand new book.
Unfortunately, my memory of this perfect birthday is marred, for I never got to read all those books ultimately. Most of the girls bullied me into lending them all but one of those books saying I wouldn’t be reading all of them that night. For some reason, I don’t remember reading the rest. Maybe there was a reason?
For a long time in between, birthdays were lost in life’s Bermuda triangle of growing up, negotiating relationships and managing expectations and dealing with disappointments.
Until my golden 50th last year.
This was a turning point, half time perhaps – as my little one would say. As a kid my Appu thought everyone lived for 100 years, and each year on my birthday she would count backwards, frowning a little less each year as she improved her mental math skills, trying to figure out how many more years I had before I turned 100.
My 50th birthday was a turning point, when I can say I learnt to unabashedly enjoy the day and lap up the love that came my way.
I realise I don’t have half time exactly – so why not!
This birthday was a quiet celebration on the family front. A birthday cake lovingly baked by my firstborn, a cosy dinner at the Coconut Lagoon, phone calls from loved ones…
What made this birthday most memorable was the gush of greetings and wishes, the outpour of love and affection from my friends and family on my timeline and inbox on Facebook, email, SMS, phone and even LinkedIn!
Thank you all my dear folks for the “party” on my timeline and in my favourite food groups – replete with streamers, paper chains, speckled balloons and glitter; with boxed gifts nudging a huge birthday cake!
So blessed, so privileged, so fulfilled to be loved so this birthday! Who needs another 49?!
In our typical Indian style, I am ending this on a sweet note – with a falooda that I had made for my Amu’s birthday some months ago.
4 glasses chilled full cream milk (try not to boil the milk, if you can)
Sugar/sweetener as required
6 tsp sabza seeds (basil seeds)
8-10 tbsp rose syrup
6 scoops of vanilla ice cream
1 packet red coloured (any flavour) jelly (I used a vegetarian one!)
½ cup chopped pistachios
½ cup chopped almonds
6 strawberries (optional)
Set the jelly according to package instructions.
Cook the vermicelli in boiling water till al dente. Drain and rinse in cold water and chill in refrigerator till needed.
Mix the rose syrup and the crushed cardamom with the milk and add sugar/sweetener only if required. If you are confident about the milk you are using, try to use it without boiling it. It tastes better! Chill in the refrigerator.
Soak the basil/sabza seeds in a bowl and pour enough water over them to completely submerge. When they swell and look like blobs of jelly with small black dot in the centre, strain and keep aside.
To assemble the falooda
Frost 6 tall glasses. Divide the cooked vermicelli between all the glasses. Add a few spoons of jelly. Repeat the same with the soaked sabza seeds. Pour the milk over them, taking it up to the three-fourths level. Add a scoop of ice cream to each glass and drizzle with some more rose syrup if required.
Garnish with chopped almonds and pistachios. Place a sliced strawberry over each glass and serve with a straw and a long spoon.