"Vasu, get up. We have to go to the temple. Get up, get up!" Mom would urge. She'd then come back and immediately kiss me on my forehead. "Happy birthday, darling". As a kid, my birthday started with a head bath, prostrations to God, Grandparents and Mom and Dad. Mom would wake me up extra early in the morning. "It's supposed to be a day I'm pampered not tortured", I would whine shoving the blanket on the bed and getting up. "You're pampered everyday, today's torture is worth it" Mom would smile.
It was a ritual at home - to visit the temple on the 20th of Feb or as dad put it 'English Birthday', and on my Star birthday, 'Real Birthday'. Dad wouldn't actually care for the English birthday as much as for the variable star. He always gets confused between 20-2 and 22-1, his wedding anniversary. Mom ensures he never forgets 20-2. I don't know when my real birthday is this year, but I'm sure Mom and Dad would visit the temple and do that 'Archanai' thing for my well-being.
I don't remember actually cutting a cake or going out with my parents. That was all only with friends. All cakes had egg or that's what mom believed and dad did not like 'outside food'. I would get a new dress to wear and my dad would hug me and hold me a little tighter than usual. He'd say he is worried that I am growing fast and he'll have to get me married soon. I'd push him aside and say "I'm never going to get married."
As the priest performed the Puja, Dad would check his watch, time for my bus. We'd rush home in a hurry, Mom would have made something sweet and she'd stuff it down my throat before I got on the bus. Everybody in class would sing 'Happy Birthday' and I would distribute the chocolates dad packed.
As I entered my teen years, I would go out with friends. Dad would sponsor the 'treat' for my friends and maybe we'd get to catch a movie. Mom would still stuff 'kesari' or 'laddu' down my throat and still wake me up early in the morning. Sometimes, friends would come in too early to wake me up and Mom would only be pleased not to be on the receiving end of my cribbing session. After the 'treat' in the evening, Mom would wait for her veggie puff and Maaza. She'd then ask me about all the friends who came, trying to sniff out any guy names. She could never succeed sending sis along as her spy.
And when I moved to Jamshedpur - to study, it was a completely different experience. Birthday was a mock marriage ceremony, and a late into the night party. Breakfast, lunch and dinner at 'some affordable restaurant that could beat the mess food' - essentially any place that sold food- was the norm.
Since Jamshedpur, I've never actually gone to the temple on my birthday, never actually gotten up so early and never pushed Dad's embrace. But each birthday was a milestone. I was getting older, not necessarily wiser, but I got a lot closer to understanding my family and friends. My grandparents would call - no matter where they were and wish me a long life. My aunts would call me up and say how much they're missing my 'bossing over them'. Cousins would tread the path carefully - if they didn't wish - they'd know they're bringing it onto themselves. Best buds would always drop in - no invitation required. Sometimes with gifts, sometimes demanding gifts.
I didn't keep my promise to Dad and did get married after all. And with marriage came cakes, flowers and surprises. The guy in the toughest of all jobs - of being my husband always does something special to make the day splendid. I did want the Mayan prediction to come true sooner, when I was still in my twenties, but then I guess it's all worth it!
Today, as I am still asleep, deep in my dreams, she comes running plonking between Ady and me. "Happy Birthday Mamma. Get up! Get up!" "Thanks Driti. But it's only 6!"
"It's your birthday! Get up Mamma, Get up!" And the phone rings. That's my mother alright!
It's going to be a very long day and thanks to all the good wishes from friends and family, it's going to be a wonderful one too!