There are two kinds of people in this world, those who love birthdays and those who don’t really know what the fuss is about. I could never identify with the latter kind. How can you NOT make a big deal out of something that comes only once a year and is all about you! For me, it’s not just my birthday but I like to make a big deal out of others birthdays too.
A birthday card sent to me on my 7th birthday by relatives.
Growing up, the most depressing day of the year for me would be the morning after. It always seemed like there is nothing to look forward to now that even the birthday dinner was done with. It would take me a while to get over it and then, of course, get excited for the next one.
However, the reason why I loved birthdays changed over the years. First it was all about family and cousins and uncles and aunts sending birthday cards across cities. The number of letters and cards defined how special the day has been. Some more generous relatives even parceled gifts. Parents used to buy me a new pair of dress, a new doll or a game I had been wanting and of course the home-baked cake with chocolate-frosting.
My birthday fell during summer vacations and I used to envy every kid in school who got to come in colorful attire once a year and went about distributing sweets to everyone. I considered myself unlucky in that respect. It was a sort of deprivation at that age.
A few years later, it was all about the ‘birthday party’. Right from buying the invitation cards, to writing them to eagerly waiting for the big day! The dress for the party, the menu and the endless gift boxes that needed to be opened before calling it a day. I remember this one time, I would have been 10 yrs old, I was so excited about my birthday party that I gave out invitation cards much in advance. Some friends thought the party was the very next day of receiving the card and that they turned up at my house all dressed up and with gifts on the wrong day! Boy was I thrilled and woot were they embarrassed 😉
Moving further, birthdays became all about phone calls. And phone calls from all corners. School friends, graduation friends, MBA friends, hostel friends, relatives, best friend’s parents, best friend’s brother, office colleagues, the guy I met during summer internship, the girl who knew me through a friend. Yes. There were those birthdays when all I did the entire day was attend calls! And that was oh-so-flattering. I once even made a list of people who wished me on my birthday.. And the number was..well.. astronomical.
Then Facebook happened. Now birthdays were a routine. Every morning began with a, ‘Let’s see who’s birthday it is today!’ and join in the virtual celebration by writing on the person’s wall and if the person happens to be a close friend, dedicate the status message to them. The number of people who wished me and who I wished around the year ran in multiples of hundreds. Then people called too… because Facebook told them so! It was just a new way of celebrating your day. If you didn’t log on to Facebook someday, chances are you will miss wishing a ‘friend’ on his/her birthday because whatever happened to the little diaries we used to maintain with people’s birthdays and other important days.
I managed to maintain my excitement for Birthdays all these years despite the changing form of the day. Until last year when I realized that birthdays were no more exciting for me 🙁 It was hard to come to terms with but I could not deny it. All the phone calls and Facebook posts seemed so drab. I valued people’s wishes but something was amiss. It was like I was looking forward to it for ages and when it began, I was wishing for it to get over asap.
Somehow, I realized that I did not enjoy the small talk when people called to wish and the virtual hoopla around it. I was craving for a birthday which comprised of something more meaningful and something simple yet memorable. I bet nobody remembers Facebook posts and phone calls when they look back on their birthdays.
I managed to trudge through the day and was only happy when I hit the bed that night.
The next morning was, surprisingly, not depressing. That birthday also got me thinking – birthdays were still special occasions for me but I perhaps didn’t like its present form. They were special but didn’t feel so. I figured it was the same for others too.
After much thinking, I decided that henceforth I would write emails and letters to people on their birthdays. It was a day to celebrate their presence in my life and in this world. Perhaps a long personal email about what I wish for them for the coming year, what they mean to me and how I appreciate them would be more meaningful than a two minute phone call.
Writing to people felt nice. It made me retrospect about others and their replies made me even happier. I realized they appreciated this gesture and it actually felt like birthdays were special again. The letters and emails did make their day memorable for them and me. I remember each and every long note I have written, something away from the public glare and something very, very personal – straight from the heart.
I think it is a great practice. And as I gear up for my next birthday, I dream of a quiet day with my inbox and mail box flooded with meaningful, personal notes. Probably the best gift I can hope for. I know it’s not a practical dream .. But that’s anyway an oxymoron 😉