The Spoiled Birthday

“Hmm…All of you are invited to my 6th birthday party, held on the day after tomorrow. There will be cakes, and ribbons, and balloons. Please wear blue-and-white clothes like Cinderella and do bring my gift along. Entrance by invitation only!” jotted down my sister, in her loopy, scrawling handwriting, pronouncing each word carefully with her little tongue stuck out and her dark-brown bangs falling over her face.

“Hey girl! What are you doing?” I said as I walked in the room.

“Writing out invitations to my birthday party on Saturday,” she replied. “Will you please, please, pretty please post these for me today?”

“Sure I will!” I ruffled her hair playfully, and took the pile of brightly coloured envelopes from her. My sister could be a total brat sometimes, but she was, after all, my younger sister and I was almost always ready to do anything for her.

It was thus, that I made the biggest mistake of my life. I forgot! It totally escaped my mind that the invitations had to be posted today, and it was not until the next day that I remembered that I had yet to post them. As soon as I did remember, I rushed to the post office and completed my task, heaving a sigh of relief. Thank God I remembered, otherwise, my sister’s anger could be a really terrible thing to face.

The house became a zoo, as we started the decorations for the party. My mother, brother, father and I worked endlessly to hang up the never-ending bunch of ribbons in exactly the ‘right’ places, as our little Ms. Bossy birthday girl, stood supervising, hand placed on her hip, and ordered us about. Our lungs hurt from blowing up the millions of balloons that we had to, just because the birthday girl wanted them.

Even the menu had to be perfect! “I shall want pizza, lemon slush, strawberries with chocolate fondue, chips, brownies, oh…and gingerbread men, and your chocolate chip cookies, Mama,” she ordered, as we stared at her helplessly. “And, I want my birthday cake (and it should be Cinderella) from you!” she turned on to me.

The day arrived, as our tension mounted up to the peak. However, I could not help smiling as she pranced about in her gleaming, white Cinderella costume, while I layered the blue fondant onto the magnificent two-tier cake. It had hundreds and thousands, edible fairy pearls, and an edible Cinderella figurine on top. It was my best creation so far, and I could not wait to show it off!

Time ticked by, but the doorbell never rang. My sister had resorted to sitting glum on the sofa, awaiting her guests, but they never came. We were all pretty disappointed. I could sense danger approaching when I saw her lips quivering, her cheeks bright red, and her pupils getting all watery. It did come! “Nobody likes me!” she wailed out. I tried consoling her but in vain. Upset, we left the decorations as they were, deciding we would take them off the next day.

But, the next day turned out to be a bigger surprise for all of us. As the clock struck twelve in the noon, voices started singing “Happy Birthday to you!” outside our home. As I went to open the door, a flock of Cinderella-idolizing girls rushed in, with a couple of mothers following behind. The Birthday Guests were here!

My sister, who had till then been sulking around in her pyjamas, was dumbstruck. We later discovered from one of the mothers that they had received the letter only two days ago, and thus they assumed that ‘day after tomorrow’ was today. “Oh My God! I forgot!” I cursed myself, praying at the same time that nobody would question me. But, the Truth had to come out, and it did. My sister glared at me with a look of murderous rage in her eyes, as I stood, blushing furiously with embarrassment. The rest of the people were laughing so hard that they were unable to speak. As we later termed it, it was indeed an amusing misunderstanding. But not so amusing for me, because I was the one who had to face the brunt for my carelessness and my sister gave me THE silent treatment for weeks after the incident. Never am I, ever, going to procrastinate again!

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The Loss

Ever since I was born, I have had four mothers. One, my biological mother, was ‘Mamma’; the second, my aunt, was ‘Ammi’; the third, another aunt, was ‘Maa’; and the fourth and the best was ‘Amma’.

Me in my ‘cradle’
LOL…I was so ugly 😛

Amma was a kind of a far-off relative, but, as they say, people you live with are often dearer to you than people with whom you have family ties.

Despite the distance in relation, I was closer to Amma, as a child, than I was to my own mother. Before my schooling started, nobody used to be at my home in the mornings, so I was sent to my aunt’s house, where Amma also lived, and babysat me.

Me at Ammi (my aunt)’s house, where Amma also lived

She was the one who used to defend me when my strict aunt scolded me; who consoled me when I cried. She taught me the art of storytelling and even more, the art of listening to stories. Her stories were the wackiest, most unimaginable, yet truer than life and full of morals. The characters ranged from elegant princesses, to gigantic giants, to crows and twittering birds. The scenario was so fairy tale-like and yet, so familiar.

She was one of the best cooks in the family. My mother tries hard to recreate her ‘kaleji’ recipe every Eid, but despite her being a good cook as well, she is never successful.

Amma’s death in 2007, as an old, white-haired woman nearly seventy years of age, punched me in the stomach and knocked the wind out of me. She had been there for as long as I could remember, and it seemed unbelievable and almost, silly, that Amma would die one day. I later discovered that she had been suffering from cancer. But back then, I was unaware of this. Though, I always knew that death is inevitable, but I never, in a hundred years, would have expected that Amma would die so ‘early’. Her death was the biggest loss I had to face, and not only for me, was it the loss of a priceless, amazing person; it was a loss for the world!