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Tuesday, January 20, 2009


This post from my friend Partho led me to reflect how each of us treats his own birthdays. My views on my birthday are extension of my views on New Year — that I don’t feel too excited or anything particular. Of course, because other do often love their birthdays as special days of their lives, my view doesn’t prevents me from celebrating or enjoying others’ birthdays. And even if I don’t consider my birthday special day, I don’t mind receiving wishes or presents! So much for that, now back to topic.

How one views his birthday can be function of how his birthdays were celebrated in childhood along with other personality characteristics. That’s just my guess though. What I do know that that various people love their birthdays to various degrees and that ranges from absolutely being jumpy whole day with grin on face to being nonchalant and dismissive about friends’ overtures. To some extent, I surmise, it is related to how one looks at life and future, and perhaps how optimistic one is. I think people who take life as it comes, are easy going, less cynical, emotional, in love with self and optimist enjoy their birthdays more.

In middle class Indian households birthdays weren’t very special occasions. Let me rephrase that. Birthdays weren’t loud and public occasions as they are now. These days birthday parties inviting near and dear* ones, involving cake, candles, balloons, food, music, gifts and reverse gifts (for kids) are common. That was not so twenty years ago where birthday of a child was family affair starting with a visit to temple first thing in the morning and ending with consumptions of homemade sweets and snacks. Sometime, evening will include visit to a park or some such stuff. Gifts were not explicit and didn’t need to given on the day itself. In culture that prays to “take us from darkness to light”, putting off candles on birthday was clearly not a home grown tradition.

Despite childhood attachment with self’s birthday, this does tone down as one grows. Someone once said at age 11 one has stop expecting others to make fuss out of one’s birthday. Number may be disputable but as we grow, charm of celebrating that mark in life diminishes, and can even become a haunting sign of failed achievements and impending mortality.

* Not all near ones are dear ones?


Rolling said...

ur take about darkness to light and blowing out candles was rather different. that reminds me hamarey yahan to diya jalaya jata hain kisikey naam par aur usey bujhana abshagun mana jata hain, at least among bongs, on Lakshmi Puja days and some other auspicious days, that flame is nursed all night! under mud plates called Malshaa.
and yes again to the fact that when I was a kid and my bro too, birthdays were indeed very close, intimate family affairs, which is why it still makes me turn homewards, inwards and to my own...but there always wd be unexpected guests, and they were treated to sweets and kheer and if they were surprised (mostly they wern't bec its common among Bongs to celebrate Poush/ Dec anyway), we smiled sweetly and touched their feet if they were elders, n got their surprised "O Maa, benchey thako maa, shukhi hao, Maa" blessings :) no parties in middle class homes or ostentation

Ashish Gupta said...

Eh, my take was similar to what you mentioned. That putting off light is not considered auspicious and current tradition is clearly western in origin.

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