A Forgotten Birthday
by Lakshmi Menon
After a hectic day in the office, squeezing into the heavily crowded bus, which took her almost an hour in travel, and picking up some vegetables from the roadside vendors, Hema reached home exhausted with a fond hope of relaxing some time, listening to the amusing stories of her daughter.
Hema lay on the sofa with a newspaper in hand, after a cup of tea and snacks provided by her maid. As her eyes eagerly passed through the headlines on the paper for which she had no time even to have a glance in the morning, in the midst of her busy household chores. Pinky, her daughter, appeared after her bath and angrily snatched away the paper from her hand.
"Let me read the paper, darling," Hema pleaded, suppressing her anger on Pinky's unexpected interruption.
"No, I won't allow you to read," pouted her seven year old daughter.
"What's the matter Pinky?" Hema demanded.
"I'm angry with you."
"Why should she be angry with me?" Hema wondered.
Without glancing at her mother, she demanded, "Why didn't you tell me yesterday that tomorrow would be your birthday?"
So that is the matter with her darling daughter! Only then even she too remembered she had grown one more year older, which usually ladies (and now-a-days men too) are reluctant to accept. In a way, Hema was happy at the thought of her grandmother's saying that "One will live longer if birth days are forgotten."
But here is her daughter reminding her of her birthday which was accidentally forgotten. Usually her husband would greet her with a hearty birthday wish in the early morning. This time he too seemed to have forgotten.
Hema's gaze fixed at the wall clock. Her husband would be back home in an hour's time. She decided to surprise him with his favorite dal payasam and accuse him for not remembering her birthday and wishing her in the morning, as he always did.
For a moment, she was immersed in her childhood memories. She used to look forward for her birthday weeks in advance, reminding her mother on and off so that she would have to prepare her favorite jack fruit payasam and wouldn't forget to collect her frock from the tailor.
"Do you think I will ever
forget your birthday, molu?" asked her mother once when Hema expressed her apprehension. "You will understand it when you become a mother." Those nostalgic memories brought a smile on Hema's face.
"Mummy, close your eyes," said Pinky with a mischievous smile on her cherubic face. "I'm going to surprise you with an important birthday gift."
Like an obedient child, Hema closed her eyes and wondered what would be her daughter's present.
Pinky left a small closed envelope on her mother's hand, and said, "Okay, now you can open your eyes."
As Hema slowly opened the envelope, she knew her daughter’s watchful eyes were there on her with great amusement, to see her reaction. Hema picked up the two chocolates from the cover and was about to turn to thank Pinky’s thoughtful gesture. Suddenly, her attention was grabbed by a neatly folded pink paper in the envelope, which she carefully unfolded.
"I will never again forget my birthday - say this ten times." It was written in her childish handwriting, using a green sketch pen.
Hema followed her daughter's instruction like a school girl, and enjoyed the amusement created at her cost.
When Pinky heard a scooter sound outside, rushed to open the door and welcome her father back home, and whispered something to his ear.
“Happy Birthday to you, Hema!” Viswam handed a thick polythene bag to his wife, as soon as he saw her.
As she was opening the bag and taking out another packet from inside the bag, which was wrapped with a beautiful cover, Viswam kept one more bag in her hand and said, “I’m sorry I didn’t wish you in the morning. I wanted to give you a surprise in the evening.”
Pinky took the second cover and found a chocolate cake there, with “Happy Birthday to you, my sweet heart”. Seeing the cake, she frowned upon her father. “You gave me a smaller cake for my birthday, and now for mama you’re giving a bigger one.”
Viswam carried her in his hand, and gazed at Hema to hear something from her.
Hema didn’t say anything, as she was still admiring the maroon silk sari which she was always wanting to buy for herself. “It’s good once in a way birthdays are forgotten”, she said to herself.