Un-happy birthdays

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

I remember the year my grandmother passed away. I remember it in odd bits and pieces. I recall her demise in the music I bought two months after her she had breathed her last. It was a cassette that I heard the entire Summer on repeat, on her tape recorder, that was left behind in the room my sibling, my grandmom and I shared. That Summer was all about new beginnings. We had painted our house that year and it was as if, a part of me was covered in a coat of paint- beige with sorrow. I don't remember speaking a lot to anyone that year. Maybe, I am wrong. For all I know, I did speak a lot in comparison to others. However, in my head, I remember the year as trying to experience things all over again. Everything. However, without her. Everything was done in order to cover her absence from all our lives, especially mine.

I vividly remember my birthday. I was turning 14, and as the rituals go, we were not supposed to celebrate any occasion in the family for a year. This was going to be the first birthday without her being the first one to wish me. No handmade card sprayed with my favourite perfume of hers. No Tweety sticker on the card, and definitely, no new outfits and gifts. My birthday had become the annual writing retreat for her, there'd be Hindi poetry, some beautiful words and a card. All with a whole bunch of gifts, hidden from me. Without trying to be melodramatic, it was also the age and time when greeting cards were big. However much the things may have changed since, I don't remember anyone from my family going all out, as much as she did on all my birthdays.

It's so weird that I remember what I wore that day, exact outfit, the first birthday without her. It was a layered blue top with round neck, which had a tiny skull, made out of glitter. It was the nascent beginning to my Punk phase, which was to come in another six months. I was wearing this beaded chain, something Mischa Barton sported during those years.

A year before that, I got my first period, on my birthday. That's right, on the morning of my 13th birthday, I was 'gifted' by the universe. I ran to my grandmother with my stained bloomers, when it happened that morning. She dismissed me in utter disbelief that it could happen. The second time I went to her, she and my mother had another reason to celebrate the day. A year later, I recall, there was no cake.

My 14th birthday is a day that I'd never like to go back to, but somehow, always end up at that. I recall my aunt had come over and brought me a checkered pouch with some jewellery. I used that pouch until a couple of months ago when I gave it away. I could no longer stand to look at it without being reminded of the birthday where my aunt was called over so that I could have a 'happy' birthday despite the grieving. So much for trying to not celebrate and only grieve.

The only thing I carry with myself physically from that day is a pair of earrings, which my cousin had gifted me. It came inside the pouch and that was the only thing which wasn't sickening about the day. They pair is a set of Teddy Bears carved out on blue stone with a silver plasticky border. I didn't think of them until very recently when I stumbled upon them. This is around the time, I'd parted with the pouch I received that birthday. Surprisingly, I didn't abhor at the sight of that and been wearing it on days when I felt, I needed the courage to face the reality and the world. So far, it's been four times in the last six months or so.

That birthday seemed like the first turning point of my life. It was rudely reminded to me, in the absence of the paraphernalia which followed each year that nobody cares. People are transient, things are transitory. Nothing will last forever, and state of being will most definitely change. I don't think I've been 'happy' at any birthday, since the last one where my grandmother was around, mostly bed-ridden, but still around. I think it's an odd way to remember my grandmother, but I'm ever so excited and cheerful about my birthday because she used to be. It's just an odd sort of thing that stuck around. As much as I avoid thinking or talking about her, blocking her out of my life and mind with a layer of new stupidity I indulge in on a weekly basis, I become the same person I used to be, during the first 13 years of my life- unreasonably excited and cheerful about turning old.

I'm turning 25 in under a week. Everyone around me seems to think that I haven't grown up. Nobody knows that the girl inside me grew up the year her grandmother wasn't around for her birthday.

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