In a world of power-rangers, bay-blades and Barbie-dolls with all the latest fashion accessories, a child's birthday parties have become an affair to reckon with. Last week, I took my five and a half year old daughter to a birthday party, which was held at one of the exclusive clubs in Mumbai.
As always, we were greeted with a DJ playing the latest Bollywood numbers, and a 20-something hostess who was getting the distracted kids to play the games, representing the company that specializes in organizing children birthday parties. This party had a theme, which was fairly evident in everything from the invitations to the music to the games and to the back presents.
After some vigorous dancing to the latest music, where mothers were encouraged to join in, getting tattoos from the hired artists, bagging prize gifts, everyone was ready for the cut-the-cake time. A huge Barbie-doll cake was ushered in; clapping along with continuous filming of the moment was followed by a huge array of eats with something for the fussy and non-fussy eaters - young and old alike. The child's mother had invited all the children of the child's class. Some came and some didn't. It didn't matter who was absent, for neither the mother nor the child noticed!
Armed with return gifts that would put the original gift to shame, we departed two and a half hours later. I was left wondering. Where has the time gone when there were small birthday parties at home?
The good old days
The father would put up the streamers, with the help of the excited birthday child and his siblings. Everyone in the family helped blowing up balloons and pasting them on the walls. There were contests on who could blow the biggest balloons. Invitation cards with each child's name written out by the birthday boy or girl were given a week earlier. The return gifts were tiny tokens of thanks and affection, and other parents invited to the party were actual friends, and not just acquaintances.
Eats were lovingly cooked by mothers and indulgent grandmothers, and not catered. I still remember the taste of delicious homemade chutney sandwiches melting in my mouth.
There were no professionals to organize the games. Our parents did it themselves. But then again, not every child's birthday parties were something to look forward to. Some parties were fun, while other parties, where the parents were not as enthusiastic or capable of organizing fun games, were downright boring. However, it was all part and parcel of growing up in the 'good old days'.
After all the children left for their homes, came the best part - opening up the presents!
Although today's parties are also well planned and well organized, I would rather do my child's parties the old-fashioned way, so my child learns simple lessons about the importance of planning, develops a sense of participation and responsibility, and above all, values the importance of giving a personal touch to whatever we do in life.