It was a wonderful day because finally I have been able to buy my own house at a place which is not so cold and is in fact a little tropical. Yes I know, this was a long pending item in my wish list but finally I have been able to do so. Since me very young days I have dreamt of owning two houses one definitely somewhere in the Hills and another one near the sea, of course to run away from the killing winters. I literally start hating myself in winters because all my energy goes in fighting with the cold and nothing else. I really become so irrelevant and non-productive.
I am not much of a birthday person and have always found those weird who get excited about their own birthday but this year it was different. After so many years, everyone has decided to join me on my birthday and ‘everyone’ here means the ones who have always been everything to me. And secondly, after all it wasn’t winter in this new house. It was so warm, fresh and breezy just the way I always used to dream of. When I sit in the porch reading, I can easily hear the sea waves crashing to the shore and that touch of a heavy breeze filled with moisture and then sometimes it starts raining out of nowhere and fills everything with the sweet smell of the moist soil. In the vicinity there are large number of tall coconut trees spreading through the expanse eyes can see and the chirping birds connect you to the noise because once you are inside the house it is just pin drop silence. Sometimes listening too much sound of the crashing waves without much human interaction can also disrupt the inner peace and makes one feel lonely. Actually, that’s the best thing and the worst thing about the human emotions, the very same thing has the ability to make you laugh or cry. It is never about what goes outside but what goes inside us. I think it was the excitement of meeting my ‘everyone’ which has sent me on this emotional roller coaster ride.
I finally kept my spectacles aside and switched off the night lamp to sleep as tomorrow was going to be even more draining, both physically and emotionally. Sharp at 12 am the phone beeped and as usual she was bang on time wishing me “Happy Birthday”. I replied her with a thanks and a smiley, kept my phone on silent mode and went off to sleep again.
The next day started the way it starts usually with meditation followed by reading newspaper sitting at the porch while sipping my cuppa tea in absolute peace. It was a bright and beautiful day but as I said earlier a lot of time we see the things basis the weather we carry in our heart and that day I was filled with just gratitude and enormous calmness. I was literally at so much peace with myself and that perhaps had made everything around so beautiful and charming. The day then moved on and the waiting games begun. To my good luck I did not have to wait for long and everyone started arriving well in time as they promised. As the day progressed I got really busy with joy, laughter, gossips and making sure that everyone’s favourite dishes and drinks are being prepared.
The evening approached and the typical ceremony of cutting the cake. As usual I asked the youngest of the kids to cut the cake for me and they obliged happily. After cake cutting it was mandatory for everyone who is of legal drinking age to have at least one glass of wine, the idea was to loosen up and get everyone talking and expressing. This is one area where we lack the most, expressing. I remember not telling my parents or sister ever about how much I love and care for them and in the same breath I don’t remember them expressing explicitly either. I believe in our culture we express and prove more by actions and not words. There is nothing wrong in it but somehow we end up crossing the thin line beyond which it really becomes difficult to express but sometimes all you want is someone telling you how they feel about you and what you mean to them.
The evening was maturing fine with smiling faces, good food and exclusive wines but there was still something missing, maybe my biggest birthday gift was yet to arrive. After some merry dancing and party customs everyone got themselves comfortable at the dinner table. There were side conversations, across the table conversations and a few homogeneous groups were also formed. Every conversation was happening at its own wavelength not being bothered or disrupted by other conversations. It was really a peaceful chaos so to say and though I was in the middle of all of it but it also seemed like I was looking at it from a distance. And then somebody broke this chaotic silence of my mind by raising a glass of wine and calling for everyone’s attention. It was Amit my friend for more than a half century. At first this all seemed very filmy to me like I had watched something similar in at least a dozen English movies and even some Indian movies as well but then Amit started speaking. “I remember promising you when we were kids that I will always be there for you but then life happened and though not by heart but we definitely got distant in some ways. You never made me feel guilty about it. Thank you for understanding and for always keeping our pact alive.” He said with a genuineness and in that moment I forgave him for all the times he wasn’t there.
Then what happened next was the least expected, Dad decided to take up the baton from Amit. “You have been a wonderful person, a good son and I’m extremely proud of you. I still might not be convinced about a lot of things you say or do but there’s another day for that” he said giggling but being a little teary eyed, the same teary eyed look I remember having seen on him when he watches something emotional on television. Mom took on from there “You really have been a very good son but most importantly a very good human being. There were times when we didn’t agree with your ways but let me tell you, you have proved all of us wrong with your persistence and the results. Your achievements have outnumbered your adversities by a big margin but again, most importantly you have always been a good human being and that makes me the proudest” Now that’s something I did not expect from my parents. I raised my glass silently with tears and a ‘thank you’ in my eyes.
My Sister decided to take the next chance to raise the toast for a complete family experience “You have been the best brother in so many ways though you’ve been least expressive towards me. Keeping the sibling rivalry aside I want to tell you that for all those times when you had given me life/psychological gyan and I have disregarded that as some bookish nonsense, I was wrong. You have always been ahead of your time with such a sorted thought process. Thank you so much and love you” she said. “Love you too” I said because not expressing now was really not an option but for the record I meant it as well. My nephew, whom I literally watched growing up from a new born to a boy and to a 30 years old full grown man now, was the next in queue. He started “I have learnt a lot from you Chachu. You have been my teacher, an inspiration, a guide and also someone who pampered me, sometimes even when I was unreasonable. But trust me I have learnt a lot of life lessons from you. Thank you for being you. Really.” I was just full of pride looking at this young and successful man.
There are some relationships which do not follow a societal template but they are there, they keep existing even without a legit or a logical name. She was that relationship for me. We never bothered about the name but made a promise that we will be there for each other unconditionally. I really skipped a beat when she decided to go next. I was worried about my reaction to her words and if I’ll be able to contain my emotions and expressions because that’s what happens when you keep suppressing some feelings for years. You just fear opening of the floodgates. I started taking the deep breaths as she started “I will not break our protocol by saying much but not saying anything would trouble me for the rest of my life. Thank you for being there today and forever and for always keeping me above you.” We had a 3 seconds eye contact in that moment and that felt like eternity.
And when all of this was going on and everyone was still talking, laughing and enjoying their food, my blurry drunk eyes fell on the table at the corner of the room. I saw a 15 years old me sitting in the same wheelchair, raising a toast for me and smiling, that I have kept the promises I made to myself and that moment, finally felt like a real gift.