The Birthday Party
The Birthday Party7 mins 468 7 mins 468
It was a hot balmy evening in Kolkata. Although it was the month of July, which usually called for torrential rains, just for a few days, there wasn’t any rain showers blessed upon us to relieve us from the pains of the long summer stretch in the preceding months. I am a young girl about 8 years. In my house, we had a large balcony, covered with trees from all sides. Right in front of our veranda view was a huge coconut tree which my late paternal grandfather lovingly grew in the garden and it never failed to protect our house from rain storms. It did its duty by providing us cool breeze in the painful summer stretches and gave us large coconuts for free! Imagine we pay 50 rupees a piece today for what I used to get for free in my childhood.
In such a day about evening, I was seated on the floor of my large veranda on a mat, coloring in my book. I was seated near my maternal grandfather’s feet, as he was seated on an antic beautiful armchair which we had been with us through years in our veranda. It was a thorough delight to sit on that armchair and watch the sunset with trees all around us. I used to love sitting on it and drinking hot bournvita, which my mother religiously gave me every evening. My love for that arm chair was shared with my sister, who I would often fight with to get a chance to sit on it, but that day was different. My maternal grandfather had traveled to visit us from Jamshedpur. He wasn’t keeping well for a long time and was visiting for doctor’s appointments, and I was too young to understand why. As our Indian traditions followed, elders always get the seat! So I couldn’t complain and gracefully accepted my place near my grandfather’s feet on a mat, coloring in my book.
Usually my maternal grandfather or dadubhai as I loved to call him, was very cheerful. Even though he wasn’t keeping well for a long time, he would always, have fun something to do with all his grandchildren. Doctor had prescribed him long walks because of his heart condition, and so he would have to walk in the evenings. He hated walking alone, so he would take the grandchildren, i.e. me, my sister, my cousin brothers (when they were visiting) for long walks, with the bribe of a treat. The treat varied from a normal panipuri from the local panipuri wala, chowmein, samosa, egg rolls, and we ate with our hearts content! Despite my mother’s constant protests, my dadubhai would pack the same snacks for all other members at my home as he refused to come back empty handed. This was a daily routine, drink bournvita, dress up for my walk and then go eat outside, for as long as he used to stay at our home.
Today he looked gloomy, and was lost in his own world. I wondered why. He did not offer to take us for a walk and treat. So I nudged in. “Dadubhai won't you take us out today,” I asked. I knew it was the time for the walk. Although I had not yet learnt to properly see a watch, I knew the exact color of the sky during the setting sun when my grandfather would ask us to get ready. “ Not today dadubhai!” he replied (He used to call me back dadubhai as well). “Why not?” I sat up and asked adamantly. I pushed my coloring book and crayon box aside. I knew it was my snack time and he should be getting ready to take us. “Dadubhai, doesn’t want to go out today” he said to me. He looked upset and distant. I looked disappointed. He noticed that and asked me to sit on his lap.
I immediately jumped up and sat on his lap. He said “Dadubhai is a little sad, today is his birthday” he said. I looked alarmed! I asked back “Why did you not tell me earlier; I would have gotten you, sweets”. I knew dadubhai loved sweets more than any other food. He smiled and replied “How sweet of you dear, but dadubhai is not allowed sweets anymore. The doctor has asked me to stay away from them”. I asked back with force “Why would a doctor say such a stupid thing!” my childish ignorance added with my anger towards the doctors who said such stupid things to disappoint my grandfather acted up. He laughed, pulling my cheeks and replied “Because dadubhai is not well, and he has to follow some restrictions”. I felt bad for him. He used to love those succulent and hot rosogollas from Das uncle’s shop around the corner and never failed to eat them whenever he would visit.
My mother had called out to me to drink my bournvita, so I got down from my grandfather’s lap and went off. While drinking my bournvita, I had a brainwave. I don’t think anyone even knew it was dadubhai’ s birthday. Also no one was paying any attention to me. My sister was watching TV, my mother was in the kitchen, daadi was visiting a friend and dad had not returned from work. I went to find my small purse in my room. I used to keep my hard-earned money from the house chores I did, in a small purse hidden in my bookshelf to prevent my sister from swiping money from it. I brought out my purse and found 10 rupees in it! I was saving it, for a packet of lays, but this was more urgent. I took my purse and sneaked out of my house.
Word of caution here, I was not allowed outside my house after 6 pm as it got really dark outside and judging by the sky color outside, it was definitely past 6. I still sneaked out and went to Das uncle’s sweet shop around the corner, took three rosogollas worth 3 rupees each which the shopkeeper put in a nice mud matki and covered it with white paper. It was a huge struggle to get the rosogollas and pay my money as I was half the size of the counter, but I managed by asking the uncle to give it to me around the counter. I loosely hid it underneath my top and headed back home. On the way back, I used my change of 1 rupee to buy myself a well-deserved reward for sneaking out without anyone noticing, a hajmola packet! I sneaked back in.
I went to the veranda and saw my grandfather was still seated there. I went to him, and took out the sweets from under my tee-shirt and offered it to him.” Here, take this!” I told my grandfather. I was very nervous and excited. If my mother caught me, I would get no end of thrashing from her. Dadubhai looked completely shocked. He was at a loss of words. Finally, he asked “How did you manage to go out and when did you go out? You were with me only a while ago” he asked utterly confused.” I sneaked out dadu and it doesn’t matter dadu, you love rosogullas, and it is your birthday, and you should get to eat those favorite sweets of yours, despite what those stupid doctors say!” I replied. My dadubhai was touched, he had tears welling up in his eyes. He picked me up on his lap and kissed my cheeks and squeezed me. I was still anxious about being caught. “Hurry eat them, before mom sees it!” I urged him. He took out those succulent rosogollas from the matki and ate two, offering me one, which I ate.
In this way, between two dadubhai’s a secret birthday party was celebrated. Many years down the line, a lot of things changed. I grew up, my grandfather was no more, I went to college and did good things, but time again I remember this day and smile internally.
No photographs, videos, and social media can visualize these captured memories in the way I imagine it in my mind. They remain in there. Pure and untainted.