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The chubby little girl was wearing her baby blue birthday frock. Those days blue didn't have a gender. It was just a colour. It was one of her favourite colours. In fact all 'light colours' as mom used to say were her favourites- baby pink, baby blue, yellow, violet, white.
The little girl was pacing up and down the drawing room. The drawing room was beautifully decorated by mom with balloons and greeting cards. Once in a while she would peep out of the room to see whether her guests arrived or not.
Slowly her guests started trickling in. Despite her impatience, she welcomed each one of them graciously, just as mom had taught and asked her to do. Her eyes kept scanning her guests for the gifts they brought for her. The size of the gift mattered a lot .The bigger the gift, the brighter her eyes shone, wondering what surprises they contained. How she loved surprises!
There were some gifts which were very predictable in the manner they were packed. She would receive them with joy and then pass it on to her sister standing next to her to stack it on the table. And then she would whisper "oh its a pencil box" or "yippee its a sketch pens packet" or "oh no a steel plate again". She did not like if anybody gifted her steel items. After all, what use would they have for her? But mom would be very happy; those days gifting steel utensil was considered good.
Suddenly the little girl spotted her friend Nayan coming in .She was happy to see him. But her happiness faded when she saw him come empty handed. She lost her patience and went straight to him and asked, "Nayan tum mere liye kuch nahi laye? Mera birthday day gift kahan hai?". Nayan was a small boy younger to her. He was clueless. He didn't know that in attending a birthday party without a gift,he would be called in question. "Jaao ghar jaao,mere liye gift lekar aao", she said .He went away. A little while later, Nayan returned but this time his mother too accompanied him. His mom had a neatly wrapped gift in her hand. The little girl's eyes shone brightly again, on seeing her gift. Nayan's mother gave the gift to the girl and told mom that Nayan's father had been to the market, hence the delay in getting the gift. Mom instantly guessed that her little girl had indulged in some mischief again (she was a master prankster after all) and she gave the little girl one dirty look. But the little girl made an innocent puppy face as if begging her mom not to scold her on her birthday. She sure knew how to melt everyone's hearts.
Her birthday was the ultimate celebration of life for her. Like every child her age, she would wait for her birthday throughout the year. Mom would make sure that her little girl had two new beautiful dresses each year for the birthday, one to wear and go to school and the other for the evening party. Every year, mom would painstakingly stitch one dress and the other one would be a 'readymade' purchased from 'bangali dada's shop' of Rajendra Nagar Market. Somehow the ready made dress had more charm for the little girl. The other fascination about Rajendra Nagar Market was that the little girl and her elder sister would get to travel on their favourite Rajdoot motorcycle- that's a separate story to be told some other day.
Bangali Dada's tiny shop was right opposite to one of the most happening eating joints, 'Tiffany' whose 'rose milk' and 'icecream softies' were something to die for. So while mom and dad used to be busy selecting clothes for both sisters irrespective of whose birthday it was, the mischievous girls would be drooling looking at the softies, albeit from a distance.
The little girl always wondered how many clothes dada had in his tiny shop. He always had whatever she asked for, 'frills wala frock', 'pleated skirts', 'net frocks', 'baggy pants'...the list was endless. Mom's job was the most difficult, to buy dresses which wouldn't upset anyone, neither the little birthday girl and her choice of colours nor daddy who would be pulling the strings of his budget as it was financial year ending.
The dresses purchased and the rose milk and ice cream softies relished, the next stop was 'Purana Bazar' for ordering cake. It was daddy's favourite bakery, one of the earliest in the city. Each member had their own reasons for liking this small bakery. Mom liked to purchase cookies and biscuits from here. The chubby little girl and her sister would longingly look at the different kinds of toffees kept in big glass jars. Daddy liked the bakery because it made lovely cakes at affordable prices.
A little secret here - every time the little girl visited the bakery, she would try and move one of the heavy jars away from the counter very slowly. The idea was to make it fall on the ground 'naturally' so that she could get to eat the contents of the jar without having to ask daddy to purchase it for her. Little did she know that if the jar fell, whether she would get to eat the toffees or not, daddy would definitely have to make the payment for the jar. But how much ever she tried, she never succeeded in her mission.
Once, the bakery uncle showed the cake album to the little girl and asked her," kaunsa cake chahiye?". She looked at the album attentively and saw a beautiful small car shaped cake. It was something she had never seen. She pointed at the car cake and said, 'yeh wala'. Mummy, daddy and her sister all looked in amazement at the beautiful cake which was red in colour and had the letters MARUTI written on it. The bakery owner proudly said, "oh yeh to Maruti cake hai. Is cake ke liye special order aaya tha to car ki photo Delhi se mangani padi. Is shehar ki yeh pehli Maruti cake thi. Car to abhi tak shehar me nahi aayi par humne cake pehle hi bana liya". Like every year, daddy settled down for 'paan patta shape wala cake' because the Maruti cake was costly. The little girl tried throwing a tantrum but daddy's decision was final. He bought her the favourite 'Poppins' and the little girl forgot about the Maruti cake.
On the eve of her birthday, the chubby little girl wore to school the 'Garden Silk frock' with frilled sleeves and cute little deer motif stitched on it by mom. Though she wanted to show off her 'baby blue frock' bought from Rajendra Nagar Market to her friends at school, mom asked her to save it for her evening party. The little girl carried 'Parle Orange candies' to distribute it among her classmates. She had a wonderful day at school. All her friends loved her dress and raved about it. She was the centre of attraction for every girl in her class that day, and she loved every bit of it.
On her return, she found that mom had made all preparations for her birthday party, cooked all her favourite dishes Dahi bade, Chole, Gulab Jamuns, Pulihara(Tamrind Rice),Sambhar-Vada and hot Puris. She was so happy.
Mom asked her darling to rest for a while before the evening approached, but the chubby little girl didn't want even a minute to be lost in sleep. She wanted to enjoy every moment of it.
So, as the evening dawned, the little girl wore her baby blue frock that she had been dying to wear. Mom got her ready for the party. She taught her little girl how to welcome her guests and be patient with gifts ; she knew her daughter would well be jumping to unwrap the gifts as soon as she could lay her hands on them.
The chubby little girl was pacing up and down the drawing room waiting for her guests to arrive. She was waiting for her favourite aunties, Bhattacharjee Aunty, Raman Aunty, Mishra Aunty, Sinha Aunty to arrive and give her the gifts. She had painstakingly reminded all of them at least thrice since January that her birthday was approaching and they should buy something nice for her like every year. She didn't want anyone to keep her birthday present due citing financial year ending as the reason. She had been hearing it every year on her birthday and did not know what it meant, only that it played quite a spoilsport by keeping her presents due.
It was one of her best birthdays ever, where, every guest came with a present. Some, were very predictable while, some were huge surprises. Interestingly her 'paan ka patta wala cake' was baby pink in colour. It was later when she grew up that she understood that paan ka patta wala cake was actually a heart shaped cake in one of her favourite colours. She was daddy's little heart and so a heart for her every year on birthday.
Many years have passed since then. While the blue frock may have turned into a blue saree, and the Rajdoot motorcycle into a car, she still yearns for her birthday and surprises in the hope that she would wake up as the chubby little girl again.