Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Birthday

She had always loved Happy Birthday song. She would sing it the loudest whenever any one of her classmates celebrated Birthdays. She wanted them to sing for her as well. She wanted to stand there, on the stone platform, just beside the teacher, in front of the black board where she could see the entire class while they sang for her. That was her wish. She waited for her ‘Happy Birthday’ to come, spinning dreams, debating between Eclairs and Ravalgon, Pink and Blue dress, Sandals and Shoes, Pony tail and plait and so on. She waited patiently, occasionally throwing tantrums why her Happy Birthday was not coming sooner. Fed up of her little petulance, the Father promised that they would celebrate her Birthday on January 1st, New Year’s Day which was just next week. Her seven year old heart leapt in joy. She danced around the house singing the Happy Birthday song.

The promised day finally arrived. She carried the box of Eclairs with pride, walked with a spring in her steps to the school in her pink dress. Once inside the school compound, her spirits were little dampened when she saw everybody wishing each other with high-fives. It was New Year’s Day and the joy was on everybody’s face.
As the teacher completed her roll call, she went up to her with her box of Eclairs.
‘Why Radha? Is it your Birthday today?’she exclaimed.
The child could not say yes or no. She was confused and flustered. She was celebrating her Happy Birthday. She just bobbed her head and waited for her classmates to sing for her. They sang but the chorus lacked her voice and she was the only one who noted its absence. Then the Teacher wished her on her Birthday and wished everyone on New Year’s Day. She didn’t think it would be like this. The happiness of New Year’s day had eclipsed her Happy Birthday.
She came out of her class with a lighter box and went from class to class with heavy limbs to give chocolates to all the teachers. Everywhere the same questions and the same mumbled answers were repeated. At last she went inside the last class. In the front bench sat the boy who recited the morning prayers and national anthem from the dias.
‘Is it for the New Year?' the teacher asked her.
And the class found it funny and giggled. She stood there more embarrassed than ever before.
'Well, speak up child!', the teacher insisted. She remained silent.
'What is your name? Is it your Birthday?', she continued.
Radha opened her mouth to say her name but her little nerves could not hold up, she started crying instead. The teacher shocked, tried to console her and directed the boy from the prayer group to drop her back to her class. The boy walked her out. Soothing words followed.
'You should never cry on your Birthday. You should be more happy because the entire world is celebrating your birthday', he said as if he actually knew that it was her grouse.
'Where is your class?' he asked and walked down in the direction pointed by her. They met a peon and the boy told him that today was the little girl's birthday and told her to give him chocolates. The old peon made her smile with his childish talk. As they neared her classroom, the boy once again told her ‘Don’t you ever cry on your birthday, it’s the beginning of a new year, happy time. Go, be a good girl’.
She never cried again on New year’s Day. But years later when she became aware of the bitter, horrid, sad truth that she shared her Happy Birthday with her mother’s death day, the garlanded photo of her mother would trigger the lacrimal glands and tears would roll down. She could never have happy birthday because her mother, whom she had not seen, not talked to, nor touched nor had felt had died on the same day. May be out of self-pity she shed tears of anger, frustration. But she cried always on her birthday.


Atoorva said...

how do u come up with such ideas!! U r amazing . U left me stunned .

alice said...

Its not original. You remember Anupama, especially Sharmila Tagore's face and the song 'Ya dil ki suno duniawalo' and these lines from the song 'Ek phool chaman mein aisan khila , maaili ki nazar mein pyaar nahi'. You have it there. The soulful song in the voice of Hemant Kumar can even to this day tear apart my heart in to hundred pieces :-)