Friday, March 9, 2012

Everyone has a birthday

Everyone has a birthday but not everyone celebrates one. Growing up in India I did not know when my Indian grandmother’s birthday was. I had never heard of any of the household help have or celebrate a birthday. Many of the poorer kids I played with were clueless about this date or celebration concept – it just did not fit into the family budget, it had not for generations and never became the tradition the rest of us are so used to.

Today I was at one of my favorite haunts – the panipuri guy. I was there later than usual – around seven pm. As I walked up a little kid pushed past me and handed his money to the panipuri guy. He had four rupees in what seemed like ten coins. Here a plate of panipuri has six pieces and goes for ten rupees. So, four rupees would buy you around two and a half pieces, three on a generous day. I saw the panipuri guy give him four. The kid was happy and I was surprised – hawkers are not always generous.

Cakebox perched on top of the portable
gas burner.
My turn came and as I stood near him I noticed a group of men around. They seemed impatient. One held a portable stove and another was on the phone arranging for ‘basmati, not any other kind, rice’. There were two peeling potatoes and chopping onions – helping my panipuri guy. My curiosity – which is easy to spike anyways – had peaked. Then I saw the man with a box. It was a cake-box. They were trying to get the panipuri guy to hurry up and close shop so they could go and party. There would be cake and biryani. A group of twenty-something daily wage earners. Far away from their families from a state a thousand miles from here. They had a cake and a friend with a birthday.

I got an extra panipuri too. He did not say why and I did not wish him. But I raised it as a silent toast to him as I ate it. I know there are way more important things in life but having friends and a birthday you celebrate is something worth squeezing in.


Post a Comment