Story 28: Bachpan ke din
Sonali was dreading the 13th of June. It was her 50th birthday, the one that felt like a Really Big One. Over the past year, her friends had done exotic celebrations – in Phuket and Bali. That wasn’t Sonali’s plan but still, she felt cheated. With this endless lockdown, she didn’t even have a choice now, did she?
“I still remember your birthday parties,” said her childhood friend Roopali. If only they could all go back to those carefree days…
Those birthdays were grand occasions, when you got to eat all your favourite foods. Stuff your face with samosa, wafers, chutney sandwich and cake. All made at home, except for the wafers, which had to come from ‘Victory’, the famous shop in 1st Pasta Lane. And, the birthday girl got to pick out the Gems of her choice, from the cake! What could be cooler than that…
We played games like ‘Passing the Parcel’, ’Pin the tail on the Donkey’ and ‘Four Continents’. Also ‘Memory Game’ – which was too serious for my liking – but hey, you had to have 4 games! At the end of the party, you tore open the presents. Though Mummy reminded me to open gently (for wrapping paper must always be reused!).
The best possible gift you could receive was a set of Amar Chitra Kathas (Rs 3 per copy). Whoop of joy, for new titles. Sigh of disappointment, for repeats and bores. Those were kept, in mint condition, for the next birthday girl on the calendar. Poor ‘Tukaram’, nobody wanted him… he came back to me after a whole cycle of ‘passing the gift around’.
“Who knew those days would end so quickly…” Sonali mused to herself.
You grow up together, play together, laugh and cry together, and one day, you just drift apart. The gulf of continents, of responsibilities, of children to bring up and ambitions at work, they take their toll. And husbands, too. No matter how great a guy you marry, it is not enough. He doesn’t know the 6-year-old you, the 12-year-old-you, the 18-year-old you.
The girl behind the woman.
That evening Sonali pulled out all an old album and relived the memories. A memorable 13th birthday – in pink pedalpushers, bought from Inter-Shoppe at Kemps Corner. Her first ever ‘dance party’ – where Nazia and Zoheb Hassan ruled. Everyone looking so young, and innocent, and slim. Weight loss was not yet a thing.
On the nightly call with her daughter, a freshman at Boston University, Sonali shared purani yaadein. Mitali had never heard mom talk with such nostalgia about the Railway Colony where she grew up. The gossiping, sleep-overs, Dalgona coffee (‘We were making it long before it got fashionable!’). It was all too fascinating for Mitali… She hung on to every word.
“Mom.. you made a blank call to a guy you had a crush on? Tell me more!”
But moms, you know. They just turn back to mundane topics. Are you eating properly? Wear your mask! What about groceries? Gosh, when will she stop worrying about me.
And let me do something for her.
On the 13th of June, at 8 am IST, there was a message from Mitali and Roopali. To come on Zoom.
“SURPRISE!!!!!” It was Vandana and Manisha, Rashmi, Shefali, Deepali, Sujata, Pradnya, Shalini, Shivani, Rekha, Anu, Tanu, Tehseen, Melo, Anuradha… Kavita, Lalita, Reema, Geeta, Girija and Deepa.
There were no samosas or cake or presents.
But just being together. It was the greatest gift of all.
Don’t miss the audio file below: Inside the Author’s Mind – Why I wrote ‘Bachpan ke Din’.
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