I stopped wishing ‘Happy Birthday’ to my facebook friends. There was a time when I used to feel this thrill of having innumerable ‘wishes’ in my profile page on that particular day. That had triggered me to send ‘happy birthday’ wishes to anyone whose birthday is notified in the facebook. For the last few months I have not been doing it for the simple reason that it is a very superficial act. It is one of the routine things that people do who in fact really don’t care. I was being selective for some time. Then this occurred to me: why I discriminate someone who is also a facebook friend but I don’t care? Why do I wish only selected people? Decision came very fast: No to birthday wishes.
Birthday, in fact is a very private affair. There are some people who really remember the birthdays of people and make it a point to send flowers or gifts or pay a visit; if not, they make a phone call. Those were the pre-facebook days. Now, like we do not remember the phone numbers of anybody, we don’t even remember the birthdays, marriage anniversaries or other important days. Facebook remembers for us. That is very mechanical and artificial, I feel. I had an artist friend who passed away in 2005. His name was Ashokan Poduval. He had this tremendous ability to remember birthdays, phone numbers, number plates of cars and any other thing which had something to do with digits. He went out of tune with his own nature as numbers obsessed him.
I don’t remember celebrating my birthdays. When I was a child, my mother used to send me to the nearest temple to pray. My mother had taught me only one prayer: Buddiyum Deha Shaktiyum Nalka Nee, which means, Oh Lord, give me intelligence and health. I thought it was wonderful. Every day, before getting up from bed, I used to say this prayer. In the temple too I said the same. I did not know any other prayer. Even today I say the same prayer before getting up. I think it is a very secular prayer that any mother could teach her children. Similarly, she taught me to say, whenever I left home for school: Papa, Amma, poyittu varatte, which means, Papa and Amma, let me go now and I will be back. There is a sense of taking permission from them and giving them an assurance of me returning home safe. Even today, living far away from them, I say this before I leave home for work.
Mother used to make ‘payasam’ (a sweet dish) on one of the Sundays that came before or after my birthday. As she was a working woman, Sunday was the day for celebrations; her celebrations started by toiling in kitchen and washing a truck load of dirty clothes. But soon I realized that while everyone remembered my birthday at home, my sister’s birthday was not remembered by any. I have only a vague idea about her date of birth. She is one and half year senior to me. I felt a sense of injustice in this. So I decided not to remember my birthday too.
My mother grew old and she moved more towards gods. Her abstract prayer became more concrete and names of the gods and goddesses started appearing in her prayers. I too grew old and instead of moving along my mother’s path I started moving away from the lines of specific gods. I feel that gods are not department heads who find solutions for specific problems. But I started remembering my date of birth or birthday as I entered into my youthful days. When you fall in love quite regularly, each girl wants to know your date of birth. They remember it for you. I should also have remembered their birthdays. But when anything is in excess, you tend to forget. Like Rajesh Khanna hates tears, I hate numbers.
Today everybody knows everybody’s birthday because it is posted out there in the facebook. It is good to say good words to people on their birthdays. But somehow I do not want to force myself to say good things to people. I prefer to keep quite. I prefer to remember the birthdays of my kids. For reasons of maintaining peace I remember the birthday of my wife. I don’t remember the birthday of my mother, father, or their marriage anniversary. But I remember the date of my father’s death. I became a man on that day.
After reading this, there may be considerable reduction in greetings and wishes on my birthday. I would be happy, if you don’t wish me.