Morning sleep is never enough, at least for lethargic people like me. I forcefully drag myself out of my bed on my office days, but on non-office days, I treat myself with that re-assuring morning sleep which I crave over the weekdays. As if I am compensating the weekdays morning sleep by sleeping extra time on the weekend. “They” say one cannot compensate the sleep lost over last few days by over-sleeping one day. Of late, I have been learning to ignore the “They” people.
I recently joined my new company in a distant country in Kuwait and almost a month after joining, like many other countries around the world including India, Kuwait imposed lockdown due to the infamous corona-virus haunting the world which originated from Wuhan in China. So our company decided that the employees would be working from home (WFH, “They” call it). So it was the daily routine, wake up in the morning, exercise a bit, get ready, open the laptop, do the work, cook and eat the food, again work till evening, send reports, eat the food & sleep, forgot to mention youtubing, social media, looking at stock markets and reading news & novels (whole weekend I do this). I think half the world has the same routine in these virus-stricken days. A boring monotonous life in lockdown period. Only time I feel happy these days is when I talk to my parents, Mamta (wife) & my nephews Vani and Pari and knowing they are safe. Few days and Mamta would have joined me here in Kuwait if not for this lockdown thing. The virus is too contagious and WHO (World Health Organization) considers it to be 10 times more dangerous than normal flu. So far many countries have reported numerous deaths making it a deadly contagious virus and hence the lockdown. This lockdown is giving all the humanity the “ME” time that they needed all their life.
One fine morning, on a weekend (when I usually oversleep), my friend called me. I reluctantly attended the call (sluggishly choosing between attending the call and my precious sleep), he said there was some good news he wanted to share. This guy, Hussain, loves to play this game. Whenever there’s some information to share, he first classifies them into good & bad, asks us to choose, naturally we go with the good one before getting to the bad one. When I said Hussain asks ‘us’ to choose, there’s the third musketeer coming in. We three of them joined in the same team in recent months and all three of them are from Maharashtra, India. Don’t be too appalled by the word ‘musketeer’, we three share a whatsapp group named ‘The Three Musketeers”, that’s all. Now you can smile.
Coming to the good news Hussain was to share, it was his ‘Moon Birthday’ of the year. He wanted us to perform a small ritual as per his traditional practices. I was amused by the ritual idea because we grown-ups really don’t celebrate our birthdays, let alone the traditional rituals. I instantly agreed to perform the ritual and we all planned the activity just before noon. Let me give you a glimpse of the ‘Moon Birthday’. The Moon Birthday of a person is as per the lunar calendar which consists of 354 days, the months in this calendar are based on the cycles of the moon. This birthday of his fell just before the holy month of Ramadan, namely Shaaban. I just knew the Gregorian calendar before this day which is based on the sun’s position in relative to the stars. Quite astronomical you might think, google it and you will get all the information on your screen, so not a big deal.
Before this day, I used to believe Indians can have maximum of two birthdays in a year. One is which we call the real birthday, the day you were actually born. Second, the official-cum-academic birthday, which is usually a date ranging between 01st to 10th June so as to match the academic year start in India. The idea behind this is was found by our Indian great grandfathers it seems. There is a rule in India that the kid has to reach a minimum age of three and a half years as on 1st June that particular year to get admitted to school. So, based on the birth month of the child and projection year of his start of education, parents started tweaking the dates in the birth certificates so that the child may join the school even if his real age is between 3 to 3.5 years. And I say great grandfathers because we used to celebrate my ex-boss’ official & real birthday who is almost 62+ now, so his father did it for him, its generations we are speaking of. Well, you may think corruption started in those times not only in government offices (altering dates in birth certificates) but before that in the minds of our great grandfathers, I will leave that debate to you. I just wanted to explain the logic of official-cum-academic birthday in India to you guys. Let us move on now. So now I know Indians can have a maximum of three birthdays, real one based on sun calendar, real one based on moon calendar and finally official-cum-academic birthday, what say!!
As for the birthday celebration in my life, I remember my birthdays were never celebrated at my home in my childhood, or until I got married. I never regretted this thing because there were no such things called regrets or tensions or happiness in childhood. We only enjoyed our lives playing and studying each day, with no focus on family issues or money matters. So, “They” say childhood is the best. But I had this cousin brother named Kishor in my hometown Bhiwandi who shared the same birthdate as me (we both had only sun-based calendar birthday), although he was a year older to me. I belonged to the middle-class family and he was kind of rich, rich enough to throw a birthday party to more than 50+ children plus their families in the ‘90s. I always attended his (and mine) birthday parties, every year. There were some 2 or 3 years intermittently, I remember I was called upon by my elder cousins to cut the cake along with him, standing beside him, and Kishor never refused. He was a very nice cousin, always playing games with me when I was around. He was sent to Panchgani in later years and we lost touch. We liked each other’s company when we were together. His home, for me, was like a huge mansion. Though the home was spread on only 1 floor, it had almost 5+ bedrooms, a big kitchen, a huge dining hall with 8 chair-dining table, a huge hall equal to a marriage banquet which can easily host 100+ guests. We used to skate and play cricket & badminton in this hall. I learned my limited skating skills here in this hall itself. And the hall had this big wooden jhula (swing), this is still the most memorable jhula in my life. In terms of area, the whole mansion might be at least 10000+ square feet. My current 2-BHK flat would almost look like a dwarf if compared.
OK, the moon birthday. I & Vijay turned up at Hussain’s place just before noon as decided and Hussain got ready in his traditional attire which consisted of complete white kurta-pyjama and a topi (hat) stitched with gold threads on it. We did not expect that he would get ready in his traditional attire for the small ceremony we were going to perform. In complete contrast, I wore my grey shorts & a sky-blue T-shirt. Vijay also was informal, wearing his regular dark-blue cricket team t-shirt & black trousers. I once asked him about his T-shirt which he wears all the time except for office, he said he has 5 such T-shirts! Hussain’s roommate Yohannan was also a part of the ceremony. He also works for the same company we work for, in a different department.
So the ceremony starts, Hussain sat on a chair facing the east, as per the custom. OK, the whole ritual is as per the traditional custom so no repeats! I get the first honors to perform the ritual. Hussain had already arranged the required items (coconut, raisins and sweets) for the ritual. The small ritual was to take the coconut in my hand, orbit it in front of Hussain’s face seven times in clockwise direction & feed him with raisins and the sweet, blessing him. It is same like we perform ‘aarti’ of any person. Then, the sweet is to be distributed to the other guests in the room. And then each person in the room repeated the ritual and blessed him again.
Blessing is a special gift if you give to somebody, I feel that if you have the honors to bless somebody, you will also be blessed by God with the same intensity that you bless the other person. It is kind of positive energy vibe in the air in these special moments. Apart from talking to parents, Mamta & my nephews Vani and Pari, this was an additional reason to be Happy today!
Now comes the feast part, the special sweet dish made on moon birthdays which was today made by the birthday-boy Hussain. It was called “Thuli”. Thuli is a traditional sweet dish made from a mixture of broken wheat, milk, ghee, & jaggery, garnishing further with coconut powder, raisin & dry-fruit powder. This was my first time having this dish. One can compare it to Payasam, a south Indian sweet dish. Believe me, you would love to have it in your home-made list of desserts once you taste it. Then we sit & plan for dinner together. I make the excuses as a bad chef and promised them I will only help in finishing whatever dinner Vijay & Hussain will prepare. Dinner was great starting with drumstick soup, beetroot salad made by Hussain, pulao rice made by Vijay, papad, pickle and finally eaten by the three musketeers & the roomie. A great moon birthday indeed!
19th April 2020, Kuwait