I considered myself modern and emancipated to an extent. This sense of being modern reflects in the many values and beliefs I hold dear. Perhaps not so importantly, it has repeatedly echoed in the impressions of people who know me well and those who don’t. My middleclass upbringing didn’t have any special favours or concessions for me being of a particular gender. I therefore, learnt to value my freedom (even with its veiled limitations) and expected the society to treat me equally if not fairly. So, I wear my independence like a badge and have indeed judged others who believed themselves to be the ‘weaker sex’ and in need of special consideration. I sat pretty on what to me was an evolved state of being. In fact, if you meet me you would think I am superbly in control of my life and affairs and in a haloed state of midlife contentment.
Why then, do I have a deep-seated need to feel special? Why do I often feel disappointed when people I care for, fail to recognize this need? Why did I find my eyes wet when the ones who made an effort to celebrate my birthday are the ones I least expect to. Customarily, my father forgot the date. My mother, was distracted with the morning chores to have the time to wish. My son has not developed the skill to remember dates so I reminded him and received a hug. My significant other remembered and called. My best friend did not wish and I called to remind which is when he said he was still annoyed with me for something that isn’t in the scope of this post. (It’s another matter that since then we have exchanged only two-word mails - ‘howz u?’ ‘the usual’).
In the course of the day two of my cousins and few ex-colleagues called to wish. A dozen email wishes were there too in my mailbox. Some from people I don’t even interact with regularly. My boss hugged and wished with full fanfare leaving someone to comment why the men in office don’t get similar hugs. So finally, it was up to a few of my workmates to surprise me with a lunch. I was touched the way they chose a steak house despite many of them being vegetarian. I will be forever grateful for their thoughtfulness. Of course, my mother had made ‘payesh’ a customary sweet dish for special days. Her way of letting me know when I got back home, that she hadn’t forgotten. And of course I received a message from my father saying like usual he forgot.
As the day got over, I thought of all the times I had bought movie tickets when I wasn’t invited, paid someone’s phone bill, traveled half across town after work to cheer someone up, surprised someone with a stray gift, sent flowers on birthdays, gifted chocolates on a whim, spent time when someone needed company. Nothing that will earn me a place in Guinness Book but it made someone happy. They say what goes around comes around. Maybe that is true. The last gift I received was a very expensive one. But I would gladly trade it for an I-Love-You said more often. I cherish the time I was surprised with a box of chocolates and a bunch of fresh flowers. I am not into diamonds and posh dinners et al. They make me distinctly uncomfortable. A timely hug, a simple card, a holding of hands, a flower from the terrace garden, a home made cake, a heart-shaped keychain works for me. I confess I am a sucker for nostalgia. I have horded every card, every scrap paper, every gift I have ever received. I have a slam-book from junior school where one wrote inane things like ‘drink coffee drink tea, when you burn your lips think of me’.