When I was a kid, birthdays were such a simple affair – streamers and balloons adorning the room (ma would spend the entire evening on it), home-made snacks for friends (samosas and wafers were the favs), playing passing-the-parcel and musical chairs (the best part :)) and giving away pencil box or pens as return gifts (everybody would fight for a colour of their choice). The occasion was more about having a good time with friends and family, not bothering about the shape of your cake or the colour of the wrapping paper on the return gifts.
Cut to the new-age birthday parties. First and foremost, you need to think of a theme -Barbie doll parties (where everyone dresses in pink) or jungle theme parties (where kids behave wildly as ever) are passé. Today, ‘A journey into space’ and Harry Potter themes are the favourites. Once you have decided upon a theme, plan the decoration. It doesn’t matter if it implies hiring a professional who’d charge thousands for the paper mache models and the paper cut-outs – the decoration should transform the birthday party venue (preferably a restaurant or a club-house) into a space station or Hogwart’s school of witchcraft. Invitation cards, birthday cake, games and return gifts – everything needs to be in sync with the theme. Some people go to the extent of coordinating the colours too! Such is the madness that the preparations start almost a month in advance – frenzied mothers surf the net for suggestions, the shape of the cake is decided, the cooks are booked - making the event nothing short of a marriage…infact, it’s an annual headache.
And after having attended many such parties and seen the tamasha, I wonder – is it really worth it? Whom are these people trying to please? Do the kids really want such stuff or is it the parents who are the ones conscious about their status? What was wrong with the kind of birthday parties we had? And can such celebrations match the innocence and joy of those humble parties we had not so long ago?