It was six fifteen in the morning. An electric blue firmament sequined by twinkling stars with a beaming moon still wide awake like a playful child. I walked Mr. Snow Boot (my pet) around the Block who appeared to be quite moody today and turned homeward just after a few sprightly trots.
We galloped up to the first floor and softly rapped on the door to be opened by my sister who looked quite energetic despite the early hours. My bro-in-law looked cheerfully engrossed in the kitchen! Preparing the morning tea with a generous dose of “Matilda’s Secret” was his prerogative.
I got warm hugs from both of them. Soon after, my groggy nephew appeared like Jack in a box with a big red box and placed it right on top of the keyboard of my laptop that I was tapping away to glory, insisting that I open it post haste. I obliged. A fluffy cake of satisfactory size smiled at me shaking off the chocolaty flakes casually powdered on its cherubic face. Dark chocolate roses dimpled its cheeks. What a treat! I was prodded to knife a fat slice out of its body and offer it to all present, one by one, to the sound of a melodiously non-musical chorus of “Happy Birthday to You.” I did it grudgingly though. The first phase of celebration was completed thus.
The second phase began when my mobile tinkled and a soft, apologetic, unfamiliar voice greeted me a “Happy Birthday”. I was not surprised because the call was expected though not so early. We had a long, fulfilling chat.
The second call arrived when I was in the Metro, underground! My ears were gifted with the Happy Birthday song once again, this time, in a deep, surprisingly sonorous voice, which got cut off midway due to connectivity problem and resumed as I reached my office. The door of my cabi burst open to let in three happy faces who wished me all the very best for the day followed by my boss who had already once wished me over phone and now did so in person. In the afternoon a delicious parantha party was organized by our Departmental Head. Our Department is nicknamed as the Eating Department – my birthday was a mere coincidence.
I had not planned anything for my birthday and had decided to have a quiet one this year though my friend had been inciting me for the past one week, no, since the beginning of the month, to go in for a gala bash. I tried in vain to make him understand that my idea of celebration was a bit different than his. But to no avail. When I was a child, birthdays were something to be looked forward to with great anticipation. As I matured the exhilarations associated with the day diminished progressively.
It is not that ageing has a melancholic effect on me. On the contrary, though it may sound unusual, I have no qualms in accepting my age. The process is an irrevocable one giving a unique opportunity to off-load all those entrapments which we have burdened our shoulders with so that we travel light as we near the completion of our journey and there is a spring and sprightliness to our steps as we climb up the steep slopes of life with increasing ease and grace.
Although, for most age and experience are synonymous, I don’t think they supplement each other. But realization does dawn as the sun tilts towards the west. A cloak of equanimity envelopes the mind. Hindsight is gained. Musings are no more tinged with euphoria or guilt. I had once written a poem on this catharsis which one of my young poet friends severely criticized as didactic.
Honestly, I pity him. That is another advantage of age. You can have a hearty laugh over youth’s “innocence” anytime of the day, “Dus saal baad dekhenge yeh tewar kahaan jaate hain!” and gloat like a vain
Coming back to a more serious note, I have always been attracted by Tagore’s tranquil acceptance of death. He has often mentioned in his songs and poems that he is in the process of finishing all his worldly chores so that when the ultimate end advances, he is free of all shackles (which may try pull him back, if not done away with) and be ready for the travel to eternity with a smiling face and joyous heart.
And that is exactly what I prayed for on my birthday that I should be waiting for Him with eagerness when the day comes for me to say good bye to this world “without a pang, a sting or a prick in the eyes” and follow the Lord with an unquestioning spirit and unfaltering step.