It was a Friday night.  Jagia had informed his parents that he needed his share of ancestral wealth before agreeing to divorce Anandi. I was aghast at his chicanery. (All this happened in my house in our presence, but on the television screen in the Serial Balika Badhu).  My children had vanished into the bedroom and closed the doors. I was feeling sleepy and had stretched myself.

Then my grandson  along with the rest of the family trooped in and took me to the living room. A white fruit cake was kept ready  with candles. Everybody wished me ‘happy birthday’. I cut the cake and shared it with all. The most beautiful gift was a lovingly prepared birthday greeting in  a maroon  paper card containing a collage of pictures and photos representing many memories.

Greeting Card

1963- Second standard.

My college identity car

My thread ceremony Photos- 1972

Padma and I  with  Devi all  of 8 months. God! Were we ever this young?

More recent photo of my daughter with her family

1998 Chennai- on the Marina

Padma, Anand  ,Priya and Shivam

My more recent version in the terrace garden.

Priya is the architect behind this beautiful creation with Devi on the wings. Each picture has a tale to tell. They all trigger various memories going across last five decades.  The black and white photos are rare and irreplaceable.  I wondered were we ever this young?

The morning dawned. I went to the Gym. Every gym has certain class of members. First is the hard core members who  have enviably fit body with rippling muscles. We ignore them as we are jealous of their body and assuage our hurt sentiments by believing that we put in equivalent efforts at sharpening our intellect (Edward De Bono philosophy). The next is the senior citizen group who walk in at 5.55 a.m and furiously ride the cycle (that goes nowhere as per Swami Udit Chaitanya) for 15 minutes and them amble in the treadmill talking to each other. The third group is Young Executive type who wear the Rebook shorts and shoes and walk in briskly and jump on the treadmill immediately. The last is the ambivalent types like me who flit through the gym trying not too hard to put our muscles and bones to great hardships. (remember we put our intellects through a harsh  fitness regime).

The Hon. Secretary of our group of four buildings with( 656 members) way laid me  at the Gym (a hard core gym type) and  discussed the forthcoming election of the Managing Committee . He spoke darkly about some misdeeds  and defeating the opposition. I wondered whether my decision to contest the election  to be an office bearer of the Society was a wise one.  In a weak moment (I am generally strong willed, though Padma would have different views , but then why would any one marry if the spouse would always agree with you) I had filled the nomination form to contest the election and thereafter each Committee Member started exhorting me to be more visible and prominent in Society activities. My children suggested that I should have small cards with my color photo and a legend “Vote for Anjeneyan for —- Post , if you want a honest, efficient—“ and give it to every adult I meet in our elevator.  Perhaps, that would brighten my chances of being visible and prominent (for doing strange deeds)  in the Building Society.

After lunch , we went to a painting exhibition. Two or three landscape paintings were eye catching. I casually asked for the price and quoted one third of the list price. They readily agreed putting me in a quandary and some cutting remarks from my family for being impetuous. Perhaps, I should have quoted even lower. 

What makes our birthday special? It is the enthusiasm of those around us who express their love and happiness of our presence around them.  Otherwise ,  there is limited cause to celebrate birthdays after crossing the 50 year mark.

Looking back to the journey so far has only sentimental value. Any regrets? Yes, there are many, but no point in dwelling on them.  What to do henceforth? No bright ideas. Like most individuals, I will let the circumstances influence the future, nudging it in my direction wherever possible. Does money mean a lot? Yes and no. Lack of it means that it is THE MOST IMPORTANT  THING IN LIFE. Having enough to lead a decent existence (by purely subjective standards – LG AC vs O General AC) and our capacity limitation  to earn more of it will compel some level of self satisfaction.

With both my progeny being married and one of them with offspring mean that by comparative standards, Padma and I are” settled in life”. Really ? Does God and our willful nature  ever allow us to settle in life? When do children cease be so and become adults to be treated as such? Priya made a very perceptive comment that I treat  my children as akin to WWF’s endangered species  like Red Panda and White Tiger to be protected as such. It touched me. Perhaps, some parents  (like me) keep the  umbilical chord  chained to some corner of our mind, though the other end is dangling in the air.

We are sometimes prisoners of our past experience.  There was , at one time, clear distinction between employment  related commitments and personal life. As we moved higher in the ladder, the quality and quantity of personal time tended to improve.  Today, it seems that the interval between two working days is the time  allowed for  a person to go home , take rest for some time, change to  a presentable appearance and come back.  Sunday is allowed as a holiday due to an almost  universal  acceptance  of Christian concept of Sabbath and not due to  the need for a weekly off.

The earlier concept of a family, where there was a bread winner,  mother to tend to the family and its needs, grandparents who pottered around doing nothing much,  and children who went to  day school and returned home at 5 p.m, then went  off to play and returned by 7 to study and then sleep by 10 p.m  is vanishing. This is replaced by various other realities. Grandparents have replaced the parents for the physical caring aspect- breakfast, lunch, taking to and bringing back from school, accompanying to music classes and so on.  Parents are torn between employment generated requirements and domestic compulsions.  Home maker mothers would sneer at employed mothers on open days ( subtly) and employed mothers would talk loftily about how they balance both lives.

Net result is advertisement at McDonald  or Pizza Hut advertising rates for celebration of children’ s birthdays at “competitive rates”. Few weeks back I walked into an Italian restaurant in a suburb which was quite noisy- a teenage birthday party was going on. You can imagine that  the dishes at such restaurant are not at prices comparable to Rava Masala Dosa (my favourite).  Even two year old kids have birthday celebration at such restaurants. It is a different world they grow up in.

Why is all  this relevant here? This is a  current reality which impacts  all of us and would continue to do so in the years to come.  A casual conversation with similarly placed friends and relatives  (couples with married children) indicates the changes taking place in our society.   To me, it represents the need to adapt to  an evolving reality which tries to straddle the old world (when possible and needed) and the modern and non-traditional approach where nothing is sacred or sacrosanct.  The rigidity of my beliefs and values would need to be tempered accordingly .

At an individual level, we rarely do set goals for ourselves. My son often tells me to have interests or activities outside the family life or in other words live have  a life beyond family.  I love photography (or is it cameras?). I feel impressed at times (quite natural !)  with my own efforts at  capturing flowers  within the frame. I wish to learn photography formally and then go to distant places to  record at least a part of the beauty that our eyes behold.  I want to visit Iguazu waterfalls in the border of  Argentina and Brazil. It is  said to be the largest one in the world- bigger than Niagra or Amazon.  http://wikitravel.org/en/Iguazu_Falls

I often wonder what or how our small world would be  two decades hence.  Would Shivam have taken an Engineering course (like most others in Tamil Nadu where he stays now) or be a CA like his father or uncle? Would Devi be more mellow and tell harsh realities of life in a palatable form?  Where would the career orbit have taken Anand and Kannan ( our Son  in law)?  How would Priya’s life have changed and how she would change in these two decades? Would we have changed our residence and city?

How and where Padma and I be? How much would we have changed – externally and internally?

Do you have similar thoughts on your birthday?

7 Responses to 55 AND BEYOND

  1. This probably would be your best blog post written so far.
    Loved every line.
    To begin with (The Card) with it’s concept of bringing together ‘memories’ is the best gift anyone could get. So very thoughtful.

    BTW, Your “college identity car” picture is superb 🙂

    And as to “Padma and I with Devi all of 8 months. God! Were we ever this young?” You both still are the youngest couples (at heart) I have ever met & I am positive it will always stay that way.

    Last but not the least, a Belated Happy Birthday. May each day & every year ahead be more joyous, filled with more cherishing memories.

    Have a great day and an amazingly wonderful year ahead.

    Keep writing.

    Ananth V

    • Balasubramanian says:

      I never imagined how wonderful you are in mind and your writing.!.Absolutely excellent in content and style.This is certainly a piece in great reflection and a window opening towards the vicissitudes in life. Keep writing and further hone your skills.Vasantha and I share this happy moment in life of attaining 55 years of life in this planet.Wish you many many such birthdays in time to come to observe and study the constantly changing societal environment.Our best regards to Padma ,Anand and Priya,who we haven.t met so far.
      Balan & Vasantha.
      P.S.Whenever you guys plan to go to Latam to visit the gretest waterfalls, let us be known about it.We would love to join you

  2. Parvathy says:

    That was a wonderful one. Belated Birthday wishes and look forward to many more wonderful ones

  3. gayatri says:

    The world would have changed alot in next 2 decades.But you would be in mumbai only!! Reading books,enjoying food,not taking tensions about anything!!!

  4. Asmita says:

    Amongst all ur blogs i’ve read, this one tops it wid Highest mrks!!
    I told u naa cliping fotos to ur blogs will actually emote ur feelings and emotions more explicitely!!

    Also, i would love to see u amongst the first class of members in ur gym…(optimum levels of humor has been added, which I super “LIKE”
    Eg: u distributing cards in d elevalor wid ur colour fotos, hopefully not scarin dem…lol

    Lastly, u truely are an amazing photographer…itz an abolute pleasure seeing ur clicks..!!!
    Job well Done peripa…
    Hope u had a wonderful bday and many more to cum

  5. Kanu says:

    impressive writing ! My observations in case you prefer or to substantiate that I read:
    Happy birthday!
    You still look young except free black to grey because of pollution. ravza dosa.what was ur election results. Excellent collection. I also love cameras

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