Monday, October 21, 2013

Wishing on a Birthday

Since a long time now, it gives me immense pleasure to wish a person on his or her birthday. There was a time when I used to take great pains in maintaining important contacts’ birthdays. In high school, I started maintaining my friends’ birthdays in a self-created, calendar-sorted ledger. I kept updating this ledger for many years. I still have this ledger and it has about 500 odd entries although I do not update it any more.

It used to be fun checking this ledger for the next few days and reminding myself to wish the birthday folks. Since I kept doing this fairly regularly for a long time, some of the birthdays got etched into my memory, and I no longer needed a ledger to remind me whose birthday fell on which day. I could automatically wake up on any given day, check the date on the calendar and remember the person who had the birthday on that day. It was as easy as getting up on 6th April and knowing that it was my mom's birthday.

Over the period of my life, when I moved out of high school to PU college to Engineering college to my first company and then to the second company, and then within that company started hopping from one project to the other, this list of folks whom I knew and whom I liked and whom I liked to maintain contact grew and grew. Yet I tried my best to keep abreast on the growing list of birthdays and wish people as best as I could.

In some cases, the only day I ever spoke to someone – like past friends such as high school pals, etc. - was only on their birthday, and this once-in-a-year remembrance, that too on their special day, made them extremely happy and surprised and truly gave them joy. And on other cases, especially the older relatives, people realized it was their birthday only when I called them up and wished! And in other cases, there were instances when the person knew it was his or her birthday but their near and dear ones – like their own children or those who stayed with them under the same roof - never wished them. So hearing wishes from a distant person gave them this inner warmth – and I loved giving this joy, loved making the person “wanted” on the special day.

Some people were so overwhelmed - some “are”, even now – that they used to ask me how I remembered, what technology I used to keep myself “informed”, etc. All I had then was a simple notebook where I had stored their birthdays. But since the notebook was becoming difficult to refer to every other day, I started to use the basic technology – such as using a Microsoft outlook reminder, mainly because I knew I would always open this one software almost every single day. I had the birthdays linked to my home outlook client which was configured to my personal email id.

Thanks to gmail, which gladly took an imported version of any outlook stored reminders onto its server, and correspondingly to me starting to own an android version of a smart phone, the reminders now pop up automatically on my cell phone.

Technology is great.

So, now to wish the person, the only way for me is to login to Facebook since I don’t have the email id or the phone number. It is so easy to accept friends’ invitation on Facebook thereby the person is just a click away, anyway. So I login to Facebook and go to that person’s profile. I see hundreds of birthday wishes. My wish, I know, no longer gives joy or that ‘personal touch’ it once used to. The birthday gal or guy will wait until the day is over and give a one-liner comment informing how special the day was with the countless wishes. I miss that joy I used to get when I used to wish and I used to be the only person to wish or one of the rare few to remember the special day. I miss the ‘personal touch’. I feel sad for my ‘birthday wishes’ to suddenly become so ‘tiny’ amongst hundreds of other well-worded wishes. I suddenly feel like how a retired person feels when he is sacked because a machine can do his job better.

Alas. Technology is great but it lacks the human touch.

There was a time earlier when I used to ask for contact's Birthday after I had become reasonably close to pop that question. Now, I don't bother. Not because I can obtain this information after the 'Friend request' is accepted in Facebook, but because - when I now get a reminder on the cell phone about someone’s birthday, I just hit the ‘Dismiss’ button and don't even bother wishing. 

So, for those of you who were used to it - after a decade of my wishes - if you don’t see any more from me, don't think I lost the steam - now you know the reason why.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Kapathaka and Thadigudi-Thadigudi


This is now her new byword for anything and everything. Did you finish your milk? Kapathaka. We laugh. She laughs. Later in the day - Do you want anything to eat. Kapathaka. We laugh. She laughs. She knows we will laugh, and hence she makes up these funny sounding words just so that we will laugh. She makes funny faces since she knows it makes us burst out laughing. She does something that she ought not to, and we scold her and she mimics the same back to us in her own funny way, which breaks down our singularly strict facial expression despite our great strength in holding the laughter back – and we all end up laughing on the floor. 

And so it goes on every day. There was a time once when I did not know the difference between baby, infant, toddler (and pre-schooler – this one I hadn’t even heard before!) So when someone once said that toddlers were fun to hear speak, it didn’t make much sense to me – mainly because my daughter was an infant then and it was fun to hear her speak (gibberish!) then too! Gradually I came to know the difference and I acknowledge this fact that toddlerhood is so much fun too. While being a baby gave its own share of joy, toddlerhood adds a flavor of its own - especially because at this age, kids tend to speak the way we adults do, and hence this “imitated adulthood” coming from a tiny tot – complete with mocked up facial expression and body-stance – causes an unmatched hilarity. 

Added to this, now that toddlers are exposed to the world and are able to grasp things around them, they can recognize patterns and come to conclusions without us telling them. Once, my little one aged 2 then, was able to see the McDonalds signpost far away while on a car-ride and said “Hi McD! Wait for me! I am coming!” And it didn’t end there, she then looked at Mommy and said “McD said ‘Ok, I will wait for you.’ Come, let’s go to McD.” [This reminds me of McD’s famous Baby Swing Ad] And then there was this one instance when I was wearing a suit to office and she looked at me and said ‘Papa, you look like Obama!’ So funny! 

Everyday has at least one such unique thought that is so genuinely funny. And I realized that this is just not my daughter. Every child at this stage of life is pretty much the same and exhibiting these innocent funny one-liners. I guess even we were all the same too at that age, except that now we are the audience! These constant humorous one-liners are so hard to track and record that we forget so much so soon. When I read her first birthday post, I realized I had forgotten so much of our life with her (like how she used to laugh when I yawned, etc.) And alas, this Kapathaka might also soon become a thing of the past. 

And if the sentences are not funny, the situation is. Like when I used to come home from office during lunch hour in the previous city, she used to see me at the parking lot from the balcony and shout out the news of the day at the top of her voice “Papa, I finished poop!!” ROFL!! 

Well, having kids is not always all fun and no fret. On the subject of poop, when we were trying to potty-train her and she was all nerve-racky about this drastic change in her lifestyle – from pooping in the diaper to pooping on the potty – she used to cry a lot and her voice had so much begging and desperation of not wanting to poop that we used to feel helpless. But then when there came a time when she no longer could control, she used to run – wanting to run away from parents, to run away from potty, to run wherever she could as long as she didn’t poop. But this never helped her, and I remember thinking ‘What do we do now – this baby we gave birth to has turned into a running shit-machine!!’ Thankfully this period didn’t last long, and she got used to the potty. 

The saddest point in our lives so far with respect to Tontu was when the surgeon took her into the OR to suture her fingers due to the unfortunate accident that she had had in February 2013. She was drugged so much that she was delirious and in her brimful state of falling into an anesthetic oblivion, she was saying “I love you papa, I love you mama” and waved bye to me and my wife while the surgeon carried her away in arms. No crying, no shouting. That scene was a knockout and punched us both hard in the heart and soul. It was a never-to-forget and hopefully never-again experience. 

Now, she is at that point in her life, where she knows what is hers and what is not. This is my ball. This is my pillow. When she was eating ice-cream, we told her "You have to share, right?" and got a spoonful from her. The next day when we were eating chips, she told us "You have to share, right?" and gave it right back to us! 

The “giving-it-back” in fact happened first when she was about 7 months old. She, being an infant, was playing with something that her mother took away. In a spurt of uncontrolled anger, she shouted at her mother, right on the face. This was the first time ever she had done that, and immediately my wife got tears in her eyes. All those months of love and suddenly this anger in return! It was a strange experience. 

Over the period of years, we got used to this attitude and it is supposedly normal behavior of all children – part of growing up. And yet, it hurts in the corner of the heart when she says "Papa, you go away. Only Mama should make me sleep". There I am lugging myself out of the room dejected, when my wife points out a baby center website link which shows the normal tendency at this age to favor one parent over the other for certain day-to-day actions. 

While papa is not needed to make her sleep, papa is needed to tell stories. It is to papa that every evening now, she comes running with outstretched hands on the station platform when papa returns home from office – much to the delight of onlookers – as if papa was coming home from an international flight after a month-long outing! And then the short walk home from the station constantly chattering "Thadigudi-Thadigudi" (another pair of strange sounds invented by Tontu) holding papa hands. This combination of “Kapathaka and Thadigudi-Thadigudi” gives as much joy to me as did the similar-sounding tales of “Chamataka and Doob-Doob” which I used to read over 2 decades ago! 

And for providing this constant fun and laughter for the last 1000+ days, here is another post dedicated to my dear Tontu as a ‘Birthday present’, wishing a very happy birthday and loads of fun and less of ‘Time-out’s! Today, October 11th, 2013 is a double whammy of a day for her – it is not only her 3rd year birthday but also the only day in her life when she is as old as the exact difference of her parents’ ages!!