Happy Birthday!

(Essay)

A few days ago, my granddaughter Maya came over and sat next to me as we were enjoying a beautiful summer day on our covered patio.

“Aaba,” she said quietly as if she had something important to say.

“Yes,” I said looking at her. I sensed that it has to be about her upcoming birthday. Maybe a specific gift she had in mind.

“Can you imagine I will be TEN in five days?” She said with an emphasis on the word ten.

“Oh, my. Are you excited?”

“Yes. Double digits.”

I can see her enthusiasm for achieving a milestone in her life. I told her how it felt to me like we were at the hospital just a few days ago to welcome her into this world. We talked about what she wanted as a gift.

“I want to have an experience,” she said with confidence.

Well of course. She was not a baby anymore. It had to be something appropriate to her newly achieved maturity, to experience something suitable to celebrate the milestone. We purchased a session for her in a pottery class.

Birthdays are always special as we are growing up. It is an affirmation every year that we are getting older, wiser, mature, and capable of doing more complex things. I kept thinking what are the exciting birthday events in a person’s life. The year thirteen is when one becomes a teenager. The sweet sixteen is when one is at the cusp of adulthood, of legal age to drive, get a job and be capable of doing things as they enter adulthood. Twenty-one is when one is old enough to have an alcoholic drink. Then there are other milestones – thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy-five, eighty, and if one is fortunate to live long ninety and one hundred or more.

As we reach each milestone there is a perception that our life has changed. That we have, as appropriate, started a family, are gainfully employed, are successful in our careers, have raised wonderful children, are financially secure for a comfortable retirement, and are keeping ourselves creatively busy in our “golden years.” Every life is unique. Not everyone achieves what they had hoped for. But still, birthdays are important to recognize that another year has passed in your life and to take a breather and celebrate with friends and family.

I wonder what is the significance of celebrating a birthday as one gets older, at a point when you have achieved all you can or wanted to so what is there to celebrate? In India, if a person has reached the age of eighty it means he/she has seen one thousand moons. A rare feat that is a cause of celebration in a big way. When people ask me what have I planned for my birthday I usually say “nothing.” It is just another day. Should I be celebrating that I am alive, healthy, and have been lucky to dodge arriving at the final resting place for another year? Perhaps I am being too cynical.

In the past couple of years some of my dear friends from high school, and college, or those who were our neighbors for a long period have departed. Some with natural causes and others for health reasons. Let their souls rest in peace.

Life is unpredictable. You never know that the next breath you take could be your last one. So, why not enjoy it as much as you can as long as it is physically possible? Enjoy every living day, make every day a special one by being productive, travel to meet people from different regions of the world, get to know their culture, eat drink and be merry. When someone reminds you (and be thankful for those who do), as my dear cousin Chandrakant does it without fail every year, that it is the day you entered this world, just accept it without hesitation. When your special day arrives, celebrate with friends and family if you can or just with your significant other and eat an extra piece of your favorite cake. Have a HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

2 thoughts on “Happy Birthday!

    1. Thank you Shantanu. We were also surprised. I realize that the new generation is going to be very smart. Maya loves horses. For her class she wrote a story called “If horses had wings.” I couldn’t believe her vocabulary and skill is writing a perfect scene. I showed her one of my essay and she immediately said “this is non fiction. You should write fiction.” When I was her age I didn’t know the different generas.

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