Thursday, 26 September 2013

Birthday Parties

Spicy Saturday

                                                                ( Courtesy Google Images)

  Don't we all have happy memories of our childhood birthdays? The balloons swaying from the ceiling fan and streamers fanning out right above the main table. Enticing aromas wafting out of the kitchen building up anticipations  in the guests of yummy food. The birthday child beaming in his or her  special dress with eyes focused on the door and ears straining for tell tale signs of the first arriving guest. The  waiting child impatiently wearing the parents down  with "what is the time?", "why hasn't anyone come?" while the parents scurried around trying to put everything in order only to see it all coming down with the arrival of the first guest.

"Aunty, can I have a balloon?"
"Yes, you can but only after the party!"
"Aunty, can I play with the toys?"
"Next time, beta. Today we have special games for you!"

   If only things were so simple. If the above looks simple to you, that is. For me, this was the most lavish way to celebrate a child's birthday. Till I came to Delhi. We had already heard stories of  birthday extravagance,  when the posting order came in asking us to shift from Sharifabad, a good half an hour's drive away from Srinagar, to Delhi.

  Once the kids  were enrolled in a decent school (and that is another story), we dusted our hands thinking all was taken care of till the first birthday invitation came in. There was no looking back. We were caught up in  nerve racking trips weaving our way to all corners of the city, to all kinds of malls worth their stores, play zones, an ice-skating ring, bowling alley, farm houses, party gardens with stalls of tattooing, hair styling, nail art, bouncies with the sad looking keepers, with a couple of movie halls thrown in. Children running around with friends from one point to the other with a half done tattoo here or a plea for a balloon there. The only food that always managed to be shoved down their gullet was the odd slice of pizza or a forkful of noodles. The final icing on the cake, after the original birthday cake was demolished and devoured, was the the "Return Gift" time. The return gifts turned out to be more lavish than the birthday gifts.  Whew! What an ordeal for all the parents!

  Soon it was our turn, as the daughter turned a year older. My husband and I had sleepless nights trying to figure out a decent way to organise a birthday party for her. He would get nightmares of currency notes flying away burning huge deep holes in all the pockets of his trousers and shirts and all other garments that can accommodate  pockets. We were now the conjurers doing a tight rope walk for we were still reeling from the mounting and hidden expenses of living in the National Capital. Having lived in smaller towns and remote places in our married life so far, we were yet to cope with the pressures of city dwelling. With the Sixth Pay Commission playing peekaboo with the defence personnel (and that again is another story), we had our limitations.

 However, we had decided long back that keeping up with the Joneses was never going to be a thread in our life and in the family. We had made this clear to our daughter from the beginning that we do not believe in lavish affair and shall not indulge in it even if we could afford it later. We will try to be the best hosts to the best of our ability. Preparations started almost a month before, with lists drawn, struck out and redrawn. Imagination was sent knocking at every crevice of the cranium and the internet of course, got no respite! Listing down the menu catering to children's affinity, party games to be organised, decorations that can be carried out, a birthday dress, invitation cards, getting the list of parents phone numbers from the school to doubly ensure attendance, marking out days in the calender for shopping. Idea was not to outsource so as to keep the costs down. It was the "return gift" that gave us the jitters. We now had to think beyond the colourful packets of pencils, rubbers, sketch pens, other stationary, trinkets etc. A valiant trip was made to the mother of all wholesale markets, Sadar Bazaar in Old Delhi, thanks to the Metro connectivity! We came back with bags of decent gifts at affordable prices approved by the child in question and a much relieved husband.

  On the D day, the birthday girl walked to and fro, checking the gate and the clock. Balloons were swaying in the breeze and the streamers fanned out. The table was ready with the food in the kitchen awaiting their turn with the  spotlight. The return gifts neatly spelled out each child's name, snug in their bag along with the winning prizes for the games.

  At the first sound of the gate opening,
" Mamma! They have come! My friends have come!"
And she rushes forward to take the gift and deposit it in a room inside. The party has begun.
As more of them turn up, the child's beam radiates to see so many of her friends in her home for the party. The music from the humble stereo heightens the party mood. They call out for games. One after the other. Squealing, laughing, sulking, they run around the lawn hunting for the treasure, or bursting balloons tied behind each other's back, cheering their mates in the relay of activites.

" Aunty! Can we play more games, please!"
" But I've run out of prizes, beta!"
" No, we will play just like that!"

  When the parents came to pick them up, they left reluctantly like they always do from every party.
" Mamma, just five minutes more!"
" Papa, let me finish this game please!"

  Their faces shone with the return gifts.
"Look, what I got! What did you get?"
" Aunty, my sister couldn't come. Can I take one for her, please?"
" Of course, you can. And all of you must take the balloons with you!"

   The house was a mess. The lawn was littered. I finally found my limbs attached to my body and a mind that settled in its case.We sat down with a hot cup of black tea. Every child is special for it's parents. And so they go the lengths to create happy memories for special days. Do we tend to go a tad  too far in this? I wonder.
It is just fun time the kids want irrespective of the venue or the means and maybe a little surprise at the end of the day. Paucity of space and time in a fast city does have its tight corners. Or are we being caught up in the trend? If so, can we blame the child if their demands keep growing directly proportionate to the number of candles on the cake? I have seen the entire class being invited and yet some children sit in a corner because they do not belong to the "group". Maybe the number of guests also play a role in determining the success of the child's birthday party.

  Whichever way it is done, the measure for a birthday party's success is the number of balloons burst, the amount of soft drinks spilled, the packets of fryums and smileys wiped off the plate, strands of noodles on the table, snapped streamers.... and a smile on your child's face as he or she sleeps softly with gift wrappings strewn on the floor.

   So what do you think? I would love to hear your views and I am sure the others would too!


  1. So a well Planned B'Day ended up pretty well with all the little guest satisfied and When the Guests are satisfied we call it a "Grand Party".. :)

  2. I wonder about it all, Ilakshee. Your description of the "simple" birthday party brought back so many memories. I've been to parties which are held on scales similar to Indian weddings. Five food counters, each serving a different cuisine, dance troupes, etc. Was it a different world that we grew up in?

  3. Oh ilakshee , this is a topic I have often discussed with my friends. Birthdays have become a show off of the parents affordability. We never had a ' return gift' concept when I was a kid. and yes tattoos, too many games- they would probably enjoy a visit to the neighborhood park equally. These days some have a welcome goody bag in addition to a return gift. Too much !

  4. Yes, Harsha but only after many nightmares!

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  6. You are so right Jaish! Actually taking them to the park is more fun and healthier too! And don't you think all the birthday parties seem to be clones with no imagination!

    1. Yes they just pick some cartoon character from tv as the theme

  7. Arundhati, I guess we did grow up in a different world. Maybe some of us parents are also to be blamed for raising the bar of ostentatious birthday parties where children are happy with simple fares also. As long as it is a party tailored around them.

  8. Happy to share my liebster award with you :) do check out my post
    I actually posted a comment few days back on another post...don't think it got published. commenting again :)

  9. These days it is taken a bit too far with theme parties and allowing them to shop in malls... crazy! I try to keep it simple.

  10. This post has been selected for the Spicy Saturday Picks this week. Thank You for an amazing post! Cheers! Keep Blogging :)

  11. That's really my idea of a party!

  12. A very nice post and a good theme. Birthday parties now are a big show-off rather than friends getting together to have fun.

  13. Indrani, even theme parties are fine as long as they are kept within means. It's the parents who should realise how far they ought to go.

  14. Kalpana, agree with you totally. We tend to go overboard not realising that the kids grow up watching these are later on inculcating them. Thank you for stopping by.

  15. Enjoyed reading it. Not a parent yet, so can't say I can relate to it, and being far from Home m far removed from these fares, but had attended a few such parties when this concept was still niche, and now look what's happening!

  16. Ilakshi, I came across your post through Blogadda Spicy saturday picks and I must say it was a fun read.
    I am still single, but i have seen/arranged several bday parties. and I always find it bit amusing, a bit annoying at increasing lavishness shown at kids bday parties.
    I personally like the good old style where prents did most of decor, food and buying instead of clling a theme decorator.

  17. Did not the children say it all, Ilakshee? "No we will play like that only" - without prizes or gifts?

    So you are now in Delhi - the city of all my working life? Maybe we will bump noses next time I cross it for my annual Himalayan trek.

  18. Srimoyee, thank you for stopping by. One really has to see the lavish scale to believe it!

  19. Sugandha, it is annoying at times , yes. And then we blame the kids of being spoilt brats. Thank you for stopping by.

  20. Suresh, You must be half Delhiite then :D Will look forward to meeting you next time you are here. I shall remind you when it's close to yuour trek time. By the way, when is it?

  21. Even I never had such a party..your daughter is lucky...I guess every child of this generation is luckier than me!


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