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An Existentialist’s Birthday

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I turned 24 yesterday. To put it in layman’s terms, it was my birthday. Technically, it shouldn’t have been. The date the highly educated doctor had predicted about my arrival twenty four years ago was sometime in April. Being a rebellious bitch (and a lover of Winter), I decided to pop out some three months before the predicted date. How I survived the consequences of such an outrageous decision is a pretty long story that my mother likes to remind me of when she thinks I’m winning an argument. Let’s save that story for another blog post. This post is about ‘birthday’, so I must stick to the ‘day’.

I have never really believed in celebrating birthdays. That must be because my birthday almost always coincided with some stupid model exam. And I was never really fond of cakes with too much icing. And as I grew up, I hated birthdays even more because I hated having to give treats. It’s okay to give a treat to friends once in a while. Not to assholes who bitch about you for 364 days and come with a box of chocolates (I hate chocolates more than the assholes who gift them) on the 365th (or 366th, depending on the year) day and smile shamelessly. That’s the kind of people I seem to be acquainted with. My best friend, Faruq, calls me an asshole magnet, and I must say he’s totally right. And then, enlightenment happened and I stopped celebrating my birthday because…well…you see, existence is futile.

Birthday celebration in the sense of the word actually happened for the first time only when I turned 21. It was my first year at the prestigious university where I decided to go for a post-graduation in a subject nobody had any clue about (including a few who were teaching it and many who were studying). I didn’t really tell anyone it was my birthday. But then, people know. Apparently, all my classmates and a few friends and acquaintances from other departments had decided to give a surprise party at midnight. I knew it was going to happen. I could guess that from the way these dumbasses were deliberately avoiding any talks about the date. I didn’t really care. I hoped it would be a short one- cake-cutting, clapping and then goodbyes. At 6 in the evening, I got a call from Faruq.
“Look, I’m going to buy a cake for you. I wanted to know whether you like butterscotch. Some assholes wanted to get chocolate, but I remember you telling me that you hate chocolates.”
I heard some “Shit!”, “Crap!” and “He totally ruined the surprise!” in the background.
But it was the best birthday I ever had. After the cake cutting and cake wasting, Faruq, I and a few close friends enjoyed a night of hookah, rum and shayaris, on an abandoned rock…

That seems like ages ago. Yesterday, I was at home, down with viral fever (thank you, Nature, for the memorable gift). The well wishers were there, nonetheless. Faruq wanted to give me a surprise by coming to Hyderabad, which, he realized was a bad idea when he called me and got to know I’m home. He wrote a shayari for me (I love gifts I don’t have to dust later) and I promised him a treat. Yeah…we are the kind of friends who console or congratulate each other with the statement, “Chal, daaru peete hain.” The day ended peacefully with a dinner with my parents and sister at a not-so-peaceful-but-freakishly-expensive restaurant.

It was then that I began to think about it. All the fuss about birthdays is creepy, isn’t it? It’s like saying, “Hey, today you’re one year closer to death then you were last year…actually 24 years closer than the day you were born. Now, to get over the fear of death, let’s cut a cake and get busy washing the cream off your face.” Or better still, “You know you could’ve died last year…but didn’t. So, ‘happy surviving’”.

Are birthday celebrations and wishes actually creepy or is it just a combination of my quarter life and existential crisis?


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