Birthday by denture

Birthday by denture

When my friends, family and well wishers call to wish me happy birthday, I tell them to stop bothering me and instead call up the Government of India and wish it happy birthday on my behalf. They don’t take me seriously and laugh, call me mad and ask who in the GOI they should call. I tell them unhesitatingly that their best bet is the President. It is that office that represents GOI. That is where all the bucks stop.

When they persist in asking too many questions, I tell them that I surely have not the time to explain to each one of you the reason but I promise them that one day soon, I will place the reason for my response in public domain for them to see. And that is what I am doing. This needs rewinding a bit. If I go by my late mother’s version as I must, I was born on February 17. I was born at my home in Multan, then in the undivided India and now in Pakistan. I was a product of midwife assisted delivery and as an aside, I might mention that I was told that I was a natural fair and lovely baby. Somewhere along the route, I picked up all kinds of warts.

Life carried on and there was no reason for anyone to have quarrel on my birthday. All that mattered was that the near and dear ones got some ladoos to sweeten their taste buds.
Then came the year 1947 and along with it came the trauma of partition. On August 14, 1947 when our township was billowing in smoke because of riots, our family escaped to the railway station to catch a train to India. Fortune favoured us and we managed to cross over safely to this side of the partitioned India at a place called Bhatinda.

When things cooled down a bit and time came for me to join a school at the ripe age of ten, the school wanted the proof of age and my father, who accompanied me, had none to offer.

He explained that we were refugees from Pakistan and we had no documentation to prove anything leave aside my age. A trip by my mother to explain that I was indeed her son and I was born on February 17 was of no avail. We believe you madam but we need proof, please understand, was the response.

Looking around, my father found that this quandary was not typical to me but many other refugee kids. The GOI took a sweeping decision like it always does. Produce these kids before the dentists authorised by us and they will determine the age of these kids. So I was marched to a dentist one fine morning who asked me to bare my teeth and he determined my age much the same way as the age of elephants is determined by looking at their teeth.

He gave my father the proof the school wanted and declared that I was born on December 2, 1937. The GOI overruled my mother like it does in many common citizen cases. But by one stroke of the dentist’s pen, I became ten months younger. Call me on my real birthday, if you wish or if you must, my friends.

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