In the late 1960s, remembering one’s birthday was unheard of, let alone celebrating it! But I had the privilege of enjoying such a celebration, and being the youngest in the family came with the fringe benefit of being the first to have such a celebration, albeit a small and simple one. And here’s how that happened!
I was born on a full moon day and my mother suddenly had this idea to make it a moonlit affair to keep me merry on this eventful day. So that evening, she gathered us all on the rooftop of our small and pristine home to indulge in snacks followed by dinner.
This involved carrying up the stairs the charpoys, plates, glasses and all the sundry items needed to party on the roof top. Oh, how I enjoyed clambering up and down, and finally putting out the delightful spread. And the snack spread consisted of homemade chips, kheer and kodubalae (ring murukku), and Mysore pak thrown in as a savoury sweet. There were no plastic plates or throw away cups and spoons, no cake to cut or blow the candle, or getting smeared with creamy vanilla all over my face!
The simple yet stupendous event had the presence of my siblings and parents, of course; but on the invited list were my friends who played with me every evening a variety of games like hopscotch. Other games I must recall are lagori and hide-and-seek. The girls came in simple frocks and broad smiles, with hair tightly plaited in two pig tails. We played and as the moon peeped through the clouds, they were offered the delicious savouries which they began to gorge on with delight. The gifts, if they came at all, were profound and giving away return gifts was unheard of!
We jumped with glee on the terrace under the magic of the moon even as the scintillating smell of the surrounding jasmines filled our nostrils and each flower glowed like a little white star in the dazzling night light. We were, of course, unaware of all this then! Now you may ask, “Why did this bygone bonhomie come out of the closet and float out of the memory bank now?”
Well, there are two reasons. The first came about when a small book fell on me while clearing my cupboard of books. It had yellowed with time and had worn out, but surprisingly, the title of the book smiled back at me. It was one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series, which was gifted to me on that eventful moonlit birthday that threw open a flood gate of memories and along with it absolute tranquillity, urging me to create this piece!
The second reason was my birthday that celebrated recently. It was to honour my new status of being promoted to a senior citizen. Surrounded by loved ones, it was indeed memorable, and it came with all the paraphernalia that a birthday of today brings. Though this brought me immense joy, it was nothing compared to the euphoria of the bygone birthday celebrated on the rooftop under the moonlit night, with bubbly and energetic maidens many decades ago!