Days and Birthdays

Last week I turned a year older. As is the custom, love and blessings from family and friends poured in via calls and messages, prompting me to repeatedly charge my phone. Unsurprisingly, everybody wanted to know how I was celebrating my birthday, and what gifts I have received.

While outwardly I gave a perfunctory, generic answer to that question, inwardly I was ruminating- I hadn't celebrated my birthday in a long time with the traditional cake, presents and parties. With each added year, I felt my priorities and expectations from such celebrations change.

My birthdays have evolved over the years. They initially began with parties and cakes, the former getting smaller and the latter getting less fancier, year after year until one year both completely stopped. Instead, my mother's specially curated birthday menu kicked in, which involved her slogging away in the kitchen cooking my favourites - bread pizza, shahi paneer, parantha and gulab jamun. I don't remember the cakes I cut, but I do remember the taste of Mom's bread pizza. Till date I haven't been able to successfully reproduce it.

My initial birthdays were incomplete without gifts. Every year my parents would present me with a book amongst other thoughtful, personalized gifts. As a working professional living away from home, I ensured to give myself a gift every year. The first year, I gifted myself a Kindle, the next year a mobile phone and so on, till about four years ago, when I noticed that the gifts were doing nothing to me or my experience of birthdays.

While certain elements of my birthday changed over the years, the basic ones didn't. I still wear new clothes, take blessings from elders and thank the Almighty for another year of life on my birthday.

Another factor that has remained constant despite the birthday evolution is that of freedom. Sample this -from grades 6 to grade 12, I never studied either maths or science (my least favourite subjects)  on my birthday (the results showed in my marks, but that story is for another day and another audience). Instead I would re-read all my favourite poems in my English course book and the new gifted birthday book, with full abandon. My parents wouldn’t stop me as I had the full freedom to do what I wanted, this one day.

When I look back at my previous birthdays, that feeling is what I remember and cherish the most.
I didn’t remember any particular gift which was presented to me on my birthday, or the type of cake, or who wished me or didn’t. All I remember is being liberated, grateful and unperturbed,'

So this birthday, while I took a break from my walk along the beach to look at the tumultuous sea, I mentally revisited my life in the past decade. I realised that I had spent a major part of it doused in self-obsession, self-pity, self-grudge, worry, tears and pain. Realising that I had chosen to hold on to pain and pessimism instead of liberation and detachment, I made birthday resolutions of sorts, to worry, pity and obsess less, to forgive myself and to laugh more. I resolved to learn a new language, to be assertive and most importantly, to be proud of who I am, scars and all. I resolved to be free of my own thoughts that chain me. I resolved to strive and be a better me.

And that, is the gift I give myself this year.

P.S: Thank you all who wished me this year. Your wishes of happiness and luck were very effective!


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