Tag Archives: Birthday

The Grey of Thirty-Four

A week from now, I will be on the other side of yet another birthday, an unremarkable number this time. Many years ago, when I wrote just such a post in the countdown to my birthday, a blogger/reader-friend joked that I was doing it on purpose to remind people to send me gifts. I’ve come a long way from there now and I’m not coy about wanting things from people, anymore. Yes, dear reader, fellow human on this planet, if you read this post through to the end, if you’ve ever enjoyed any of my other posts, please drop back in on the 13th of July and wish me a very happy birthday.

I went through a phase of wondering what good birthday greetings were, other than paying lip service and mouthing platitudes. But I’ve now come to believe in the power of declaration, the magic of words. Words give tangible form to the pure potential of thought. Sound gives them fuel to run out into the world and touch ears and minds and hearts. These could set the gears of emotion, the wheels of attitude turning and shape actions that change the future. I want a lot of good wishes, please. Gifts too, if you don’t mind. I am partial to books (fiction), comics, funky-inexpensive jewellery, unusual accessories, wine and red lipstick.

Thirty-four always felt like the foggy beginnings of a grey area that I could not quite see past, in my twenty-year plans. 34 is too far from the drama of the decade milestones of 30 and 40. 34 isn’t as cool as 32, which is when you’re legitimately qualified to say things like ‘Life begins at 30!’. It doesn’t have the suburban respectability or the mathematical precision of 35 that lets you carry an image of a life that’s been smoothed of kinks and is ready to run. Thirty-four is very gray.

I think what sets this apart from the other birthdays in my life is that, for the first time, I have little to no desire to dredge up the past and examine it, for validation, for perusal of what got missed. The past feels well and truly done with. I’ve written about not feeling a certain age when I approach it. This time, that’s not true. I feel 34 because I’ve lived every minute up until this time. I may not have done it in the ‘proper’ way, having sleepwalked through the 20s, then speed-dialed through the 30s so far. But all ground has been covered and I’m standing here at the threshold of this new doorframe that has the number 34 nailed onto it. All parts of me, slightly used mind, rather more battered heart, relationships, memories, attitudes all clear and present and standing here with me.

I have a sort of idea of what this final week is going to look like. A few meetings, some loose ends to be tied up. And then, on Friday, I walk into the Landmark Forum. I first did the Forum in 1999, then reviewed it in 2008 when a friend was training to be a Forum Leader & wanted a graduate review. Now I go back for another review because it feels like the thing to do. I don’t mind admitting that the fact that my birthday falls right in the middle of this 3-and-half day program had something to do with my decision. Of all the things that have happened since 1999, the Landmark Forum is the one thing I’ve been able to count on to really charge me up. It’s just what I’m missing right now so this Landmark Forum is my birthday gift to myself.

I’m going to come out on the other side of 34, a freshly minted Landmark graduate and I’m hoping, grey is a colour that will feel inspiring rather than daunting. Wish me luck and come back in a week to wish me more and better!


Time Travel

Channel-surfing. Wait. Stop. Backtrack.

The Time-Traveler’s Wife is on, just started on one of those channels that comes and goes. Just like the protagonist in the movie. Hmm.

Odd flashes of nostalgia. The book was a birthday gift from my parents in 2007. Birthday gifts are special. Books are special. A good book on a birthday is well…you know. It was a Friday the thirteenth (just like the day I was born) which curiously enough, always bodes well for me. My birthday (just like my boyfriend and other friends) had been hijacked by another closely-birthday’ed person whom I loathed. I spent the weekend following, curled up with the book, the rain pelting down outside the window behind me. I’ve received books for every birthday of my adult life but I think this was the most memorable one.

Flash forward two and a half years. The movie came out without much fanfare, at least in India. I spotted it in an ad, by pure chance. The only show I could find was at 11:30 p.m. Normally, I’d probably have watched this particular movie by myself. But given the timing and the opportunity that it presented, I did something different and asked a guy I’d met recently, out. It was the first of what I thought of as pleasant conversations. And this is how that story turned out. Well, then.

Snap. The screen’s gone blank. The channel’s vanished on another of the cable-operator’s mysterious whims. And just like that, The Time-Traveler vanished.

Tiny Tales: A Birthday Story

I ring the doorbell and it’s opened by my friend Salim, bouncing up with all the energy of his 21-year-old self. It is his birthday and the gift I am carrying is a book I know that he’ll enjoy. Salim and I have been classmates and bonded over a common love of stories. We’re buddies and we spar in the way good friends do. The ace in my sleeve is the two month headstart I have over him, in life. He introduces me to his other guests as the girl who gave him his personal Bible – Mario Puzo’s GODFATHER.

In a little while, his mother arrives, wiping her hands on a towel and we strike up a conversation. Grinning, I tell her that her son promised to marry me the day he turned 21 but that he has jilted me that very morning. She grins back and says,

“Yes, I heard. I told him he’s being a fool and that he won’t get such a great girl again!”

And we laugh together. The birthday boy comes back and starts to tell us a story.

“Irfan was 24 when he left home with Rs.200 in his pocket to make a career in the film industry. Vijaya was studying for her masters in law, living as a paying guest till the day she could return home to Mangalore and follow in the footsteps of a her father, a respected judge. Anybody seeing these two would imagine that they had nothing in common. They did, actually, have something in common – they were both in Mumbai, living in the same building.

They’d smile at each other, then they got to talking. It wasn’t until Vijaya went home for her vacations that Irfan realized how much he missed her. Then she came back and they began a whirlwind romance, movie theatres and beach dates.

Vijaya knew her family would never agree to a love match, with a North-Indian, with a boy who didn’t have an impressive degree and most importantly, a Muslim. And yet, they persisted. The couple endured the backlash, even the death of Vijaya’s father and managed to get married. They say that time heals all breaches after all. And the parents usually come around, once they hear the word ‘grandchild’.

A few blissful months later, Vijaya was pregnant. In the time-honoured tradition of South-Indian mothers-to-be, she left for her own mother’s house to go through the pregnancy. What she was completely unprepared for, was the family’s continued resistance to the union.

“Don’t worry” her mother assured her, “We’ll take care of everything.”

“Abortions are possible.” her sister chimed in, “ And there are still boys lining up to marry you.”

“We can just forget everything and put it all behind us like a bad mistake.” finished her mother.

Vijaya was trapped, a prisoner in the house she had grown up in, the place that she once called home. Frantic, she managed to send off a letter to Irfan, back in Mumbai.

A few days later VIjaya’s mother received a letter. She opened it and something fell out.

“A plane ticket” said Vijaya’s sister, picking it up.

It was from Irfan and was accompanied by a note.

‘My wife is over eighteen years old and a legal adult. She married me of her own free will. I will be waiting to collect her from the airport. If she doesn’t arrive, I’m filing a police complaint for kidnap and unlawful detention of an adult.’

Salim stops his account suddenly and gives me a huge grin.

“And then?!”

I cry, caught up in his story.

His mother comes back into the room with a tray balanced with snacks and juice for all of us. She smoothly flows back into the discussion, weaving in and out of conversations about books, our futures and our jokes. I look at her, deep admiration. She’s a cool lady, the modern mum, a real role model for my generation.

Then uncle comes by to pick up a magazine. Salim introduces me and he turns to me, a slow smile forming on his face as he says in Hindi,

”Yes, beta, I remember. We have spoken on the phone a few times. You are Salim’s friend.”

I smile back at him. He’s the traditional papa, warm but reserved with women, even his kids’ friends. And I wonder just how two people, so different from each other could get along, what they would find to say to each other.

I turn back to Salim, willing him to complete his story. He smiles again and says,

“And that is how I was saved, in the nick of time. That baby was me.”

And I think to myself, there’s no doubt from where he gets his flair for drama.


*Based on a true story

Three-Quarterly Review

While everyone in the accounts departments sits heavy on numbers and does a stock-taking quarter-by-quarter of the year that was, it occurs to me to do the same with my life. Except this is a three-quarterly review. Of my 29th year.

I’ll be 30 this July and it’s an odd thing but instead of feeling 29, I’ve been feeling ‘one away from 30’. It’s like the way numbers are counted in Hindi where 19, 29 and so on are one less than the nearest 10-multiple. Okay forget that, yes, it is the big Three-O looming up ahead. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a big deal (yes, even if I know theoretically it shouldn’t be, life begins at 30 yada yada…). I’m human after all and there’s so much swirling in my head, I’m not waiting till July to write about it. And thus begins the 30 diaries – a special set of features on the experience of hitting 30.

So what has been happening these last three quarters of my one-away-from-30 year? Plenty.

Love life: A non-boyfriend and a non-relationship. The customary one-in-a-few years check in on someone that went off well. Ask no questions and hear no lies. A few crushes-that-go-nowhere. A pang.

Travel: I visited two new countries. My first visit to Europe (well I’ve been to London but that was on work and I had no sight-seeing or fun) and my first time on a cruise as well. I didn’t write enough of about it. Frown.

Career: I changed jobs. Well, technically I’m still with the same company but in a completely different role, practically a 180 degree turn. Do I like it? I’m still trying to figure it out. I don’t hate it. Yet.

Media: I got featured in the press a few times. Only once accurately. These journos, what to tell ya… 😀

Death: I’ve attended two funerals, both within a fortnight of each other. One, my best friend’s father who succumbed after a long and difficult struggle. The other, a wonderful and dear colleague whom I still miss.

Interests: My favorite bookstore was shut for 4 months on account of a fire. I received books and only books as birthday gifts. A book-voucher as a gift from a reader. And another as a V-day gift. 🙂

I’ve written and written and written. (Yet another) group-blog. I didn’t contribute to the Kala Ghoda Gazette this year despite attending the festival.

Every now and then I remember that I used to paint. And promise myself that I’ll take it up again. Still waiting.

Last night I dreamt that I went on stage to sing. That was after facing numerous hurdles like the compere scheduling me without telling me, a new compere not letting me on stage, the orchestra packing up (wherein I begged and begged the restaurant musicians to back me up and they did), another guy sabotaging my audience by paying them off, a semi-drunk wandering up on stage and ruining my song by singing off-key. Oddly I ended the song with my back to the audience but they gave me a loud encore. Wherin I woke up. So another reminder. I used to sing too. And I used to sing well, not just in the bathroom. Ah, the lives that we let go of with the choices we make!

Health: Twice in seven months, I had major health scares – arthritis and spondilitis. Both of them turned out to be indicative of calcium deficiency caused by a Vitamin D deficit. I didn’t know whether to laugh or frown when the final prognosis was,

Worry less and get out in the sun more often!

Ironic that very morning I remarked that,

I’ve turned into one of those horrible people who feels guilty about taking a day off from work, even if it is sick leave.

Ironic turns to miraculous when I remember that a decade ago I dropped a year from college, without remorse or second thought. When did I turn into super-efficient whizkid? This isn’t me, this so isn’t who I am.

Another Candle On The Cake

My body really is a wonderland. It celebrates 29 years of existance this week. And I’m still discovering new things I can do with it.

I don’t feel old. Or older. Or wiser.

All I am is happy, very happy. I’ve felt very loved and cherished this month. Thank you, world.


Almost every single present I received this year was a book! 🙂 Yes, my world finally understands me. And Landmark ought to make me honorary platinum-studded-with-diamonds something and give me books free for all the publicity and extra sales I’ve single-handedly generated for them!!


I’m happier and more grateful. I’m also thinking that it is worth learning to be a bit of a brat. Since people don’t always take you seriously or consider that you have feelings…unless you let them know it – I’m going to!!

So those of you who did not make it to my party or turned up and left in 20 minutes (yes, you know I’m talking to you…I hope you are cringing)…I’m very, very, very upset! Yes, I did have a number of wonderful people who did turn up and stay to celebrate with me. But people aren’t like oranges where if you lose one, you can pick up another. Each of you is special to me and irreplaceable. My party (and my life) is incomplete without your presence in it. And you reminded me of that on my birthday. Are you feeling guilty enough about it? Good, because I want you to. I would if I had done that, too.


My parents think of the most amazing gifts! One year they organised a treasure hunt with each clue attached to a gift! Some of the things I received were a book, new sandals, a handbag, a gold chain, a diamond pendant and a stuffed toy. This year I received a book, a new blouse (the kind mum is always raising disapproving eyebrows at my wearing), a silk tie/sash and among other things…a set of towels! 😆 So cute, no? But I needed them anyway.

When I think back to the best gifts I’ve received from them…

1. Childcraft
2. The Landmark Forum
3. The lesson of always thinking for myself
4. Life

Yes, I’m aware that this is extremely Hallmark-greeting card. So I’m sentimental, so I’m cliched, so sue me. 🙂


A late realisation that made me feel good – while battling allegations that I..

– diet
– am anorexic
– suffer bulimia

…I protested,

But my body is that way!!! I haven’t lost an inch since I was sixteen. I’ve worn exactly the same size of jeans for all these years!!!

My friend observed that most people in their late (very late!) twenties couldn’t say that. Yes, errm.

And the Evil A.E. remarked on b-day,

You’re eating chips and cheese dip?! Now that you’re older you know you can’t be doing things like that..!

Phooey to him, I’ll eat what I like. And stay happy with that, I hope.


I also had some flash revelations right during my party.

1. I don’t fall in love easily. It’s like the second-most difficult thing on my planet, right after getting me to stop talking.

2. I am a wanter. When I want, I want want WANT want. Nothing stands in my way. Not emotions, not fairness, not relationships, not social approval. That’s quite different from caring, love or committment.

3. I find myself in possession of an ego. A SuperEgo. I don’t forgive easily (but of course I told you that). I can be annoyed, irritated, upset, angered, enraged, wrathful and furious. I know the difference between each of these. And the object of my ire will know…eventually.

4. There is too much ‘I’ in this list so I’m stopping right here. I’m bored easily, even by talk about myself.


I even managed to spend an hour at my favorite bookstore, reading. If my ‘imaginary date’ had come looking for me, he would have found me in the very boy-aisle of comics/graphic novels reading the very girl “Spiderman loves Mary Jane“. I’m a just a girl in the boys’ section. 😉


So I had a party. The first one in this new house. The second one in my twenties, the last one being 5 years back. Only two guests from that party were at this one. One of them was my chaddi-buddy whom I’ve known since I was three. I gave him a rundown on the guests, adding “She’s a really good friend” to which he raised an eyebrow and said, “Tell me who isn’t?”. Well, I’m just lucky. In a way, sort of. I know some wonderful, lovely people. Only there are loads of them and they don’t all stay lovely for that long, simultaneously (especially if I date them, wherein they turn into Neanderthal man-meets-Psychopathic Creep). So there’s a new set of wonderful, lovely people now. But I really, truly adore them all to bits.

Maybe it isn’t that I’m not meant for love. Maybe I’m meant exclusively for short-term love.


They say Cancerians are loyal. They say we’re changeable too. I’ll quote something I read a long time ago…

Here’s to me and here’s to you
And here’s to love and laughter
I’ll be true as long as you
Not a single moment after

And that is my birthday toast to my body, my relationships and to this world. Cheers!


Happy birthday!

Paper rustling, excitement tinged with apprehension
Glittering, blinding.. sheer intoxication

I can’t accept this, it’s too expensive!

So what? It’s just money.

Too much of it!

It doesn’t matter, there’s plenty.

When it is about something else,
that matters more,
even if there’s very little of it,
I’ll be delighted to accept.

Belatedly for 22nd of November

Dear P,

Shall I begin this by just wishing you a very happy birthday? Yes. I mean every word of it.

Many happy returns of the day.

I really hope that all the goodness that is you, which you have poured into the world in the form of your love, your affection, your emotions, your intensity, your mistakes, your worries, your expression and your personality…I hope they all return to you manifold and in the brightest, most positive way possible.

I hope that the people you have loved (and I know you’ve never loved anyone or anything, any way except passionately), realize some day the extent of what they’ve been priveleged to have.

I hope someday, that those few who reciprocated with equal intensity look back with as much serenity at the ashes and feel complete for having created those flames with you.

I hope that your childhood friends never forget the young girl who surpassed her peers but was never too busy to help any of them up. And that your teachers look back at you with as much pride in their own development of you as in your progress. Because in your sucess, lies their contribution and their growth as well.

I hope your family never forgets how wonderfully they’ve lived, to have been a part of and added to your life. And that this bird needs her wings as much as she needs her nest. When they realise, I hope they also remember that you won’t need to come back because you’ll carry them with you wherever you go.

My dear, dear friend, I hope I never become so content or proud of myself that I imagine that I stop needing you. Or telling you that.

I probably don’t tell you that enough. But you know it already. That’s just part of what makes you my best friend.

I won’t be wishing you great things for the future because I can see they already are yours to have. But I do wish you past stays with you glittering, soothing and precious to you always.

When I thought about what I could give you, I realised there really was nothing, no single thing that I could add to your life, nothing I could give you that you didn’t already have, or someone else already get you a better version of. But I’ve never had anything especially different to give you. And yet, I’m the one you call best friend. So my dear lady, today, all I have to give you is my thanks for being who you are.

Happy birthday to my best friend.

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