Forty and fantastic

The OA turned 40 on the 1st of June. Try as I might, I can’t get used to the idea of being married to a man who is 40. Middle aged 😀 Of course I’m right behind him and will get there in a couple of years.

I finally see what older people mean when they say they feel no different. I feel 22. And to me he still feels like the 26 year old I dated. Except for the odd dressing down I receive, reminding me that the honeymoon is over.

I spent a lot of time mulling over how we could celebrate this big one… Frankly I don’t know why I bought into the hype that this is a big one. I suppose its just nice to pick an occasion, any occasion and fuss over a person.

The OA comes from a rather dry, unemotional, practical family and it’s taken him years to get used to my flights of fancy, my nonstop chatter, my thirst for excitement and the desire to celebrate everything and all the time.

So when I asked him if he wanted a big party or wanted to travel on his birthday, he shrugged. Disinterested. It didn’t really matter to him – we travel and party often enough for his birthday not to require the same. In fact, he gave it some thought and said – No party please. We end up playing host and making drinks and serving people and don’t really get to enjoy their company.

I offered him a bike (mid life crisis alert!), a new TV, a new music system… and finally I gave up. Until I came up with this one – I decided to ask his friends and family to mail in birthday wishes and memories and pictures, and I made a book out of it. Words are my currency and I strongly believe they make the best gifts.

This coincided with my exit from Facebook ( I deactivated because I needed some time to get used to the fact that I was actually friends with right wing voters and supporters. How?!) and I had no way to get in touch with 90% of the people from his life and past – specially since this was to be a surprise.

Suffice to say, I spent days and weeks calling, mailing, following up. My husband is a very easy going, charming man who rarely states opinions to the contrary, rarely speaks on contentious issues, is always helpful, kind and warm. And yet, few people considered it important enough to respond to me and send in their birthday wishes by the deadline I’d set.

Ma says people have their own way of showing affection. Fair enough. But that doesn’t excuse one from showing affection in the ways someone asks for it, once in a while. Like attending a wedding even if you hate crowds, because the groom is a close friend. Like going to a kiddy birthday party even if you hate kids, because it’s your little nephew’s first birthday. And so on.

People might be busy, they may not like to write notes, but these notes were requested to celebrate the 40th birthday of a very charming, kind, warm man – not his rather controversial wife!

Many didn’t bother to even acknowledge the mail, or reply and say that they couldn’t be bothered! Some replied way after my deadline. There were certain people without whom I felt the book would be incomplete and so I harassed them in the most polite way possible, reminders, mails, messages. I’m sure they felt that I was piling on – but all they had to do was say No. And I’d have backed off. Instead I got endless excuses about how they were traveling, or busy, or blah blah.

And I have to admit, if they said No, I’d have thought less of them because they are people who claim to be close to him – friends as well as family. What good are family and friends if they can’t dislodge themselves from their comfort zone to do something for you?

Which is not to say it was all bad. The letters that came in, brought tears to my eyes. Warm, joyful, affectionate, reminiscing and telling me a little more about my old man. Hideous old pictures of him looking like something the cat dragged in.

I got in touch with a friend who was estranged over a rather serious and bitter issue – it’s been many years but he responded promptly and warmly and made my day. Reminded me that old friends truly are the best.

I had planned to print the book online but thanks to all the delays I knew it wouldn’t get done and delivered in time. I asked a friend to help me out and we laid it out across two days and took it to a printer locally.

That was the last day before we were to travel and we had house guests, the book, packing, last minute plans…. I came home with a new row of pimples on my chin. And a shiny beautiful book tucked under my arm.

The Bean and Brat had written to their Dada too and the Bean helpfully told her father – “I know where Mama went, we all know where Mama went – but we can’t tell you.” Cousin J picked her up, put a hand over her mouth and walked out of the room. The rest of us rolled on the floor and laughed helplessly.

The OA’s birthday was on Sunday and we dropped the kids off at my parents’ place on Saturday. That meant spending his birthday on the road. We’d left one car there on our last trip and when we got in to their place we gasped – As his birthday gift, my parents had painted it, changed the tyres, changed the music system, put in blue tooth, shampooed the seats… The works -it was almost brand new. I’m thinking we should accidentally leave our Scorpio aka Uddham Singh there next time.

We’d planned to have a karaoke party because the OA loves singing. When the local DJ rolled in speakers that reminded me of the Michael Jackson Black or White video, the cat was out of the bag and the OA began to exercise his vocal chords. My parents had rather apologetically asked me who I wanted to invite for his party given that they only had old fogeys in town at that point of town. I have to admit I love all the old fogeys who are great fun, don’t mind shaking a leg, are never disapproving of what the young people are wearing, drinking or doing – so I said lets have them all.

Fortunately some of our friends did end up in town and that changed the atmosphere. After a lot of Blue Bayouing and Jailhouse Rock we ended up raucously screeching out Metallica and finally by the end of the evening, it was my turn. And I only belted out Bollywood cabaret numbers from my childhood. Jawaani Jaaneman, Laila o Laila, Pyaar Do etc. It was crazy because everyone went wild dancing and screaming and the Bean was jumping in a corner going quietly insane with excitement and the Brat rolled his eyes, told me I was an embarrassment and walked away. And all this without me touching a drop of liquor. We wrapped up at 1.30 am and left for Delhi the next morning.

The car decided to give some trouble on the way – I guess they’d messed something up while denting and painting it. By mid noon we were on the hot, dusty highway, wondering what the hell to do. We managed to get it down a dirt track and find a shack where a mechanic opened it up, took one look, told us two cylinders were not working, and fixed them. The OA got a bazillion phone calls and since the kids weren’t with us, we just drove along without stopping, chatting with people we hadn’t spoken to in ages and knocking back sandwiches and brownies.

We got into Gurgaon late at night, had a quiet dinner with the OA’s brother and SIL and called it a night. Starting last night though, we’re back to celebrating. Since we’re child free and footloose, I’ve planned not a birth’day’ surprise, but a birth’week’ surprise for him. Every night after work I’m taking him to do something new/something he hasn’t done in a while. From massages to plays, to live music… the week ahead is packed and the old man is all set to party. As a policy we’re even avoiding material gifts for our kids these days and only giving them new experiences so this works out beautifully.

As someone said to us, with the kids all grown and out of the way, our 40s are over the hill, but then that is where you pick up speed, don’t you?!


Edited to add: Yes, of course he loved the book. He spent days poring over it, reading each letter, reminiscing, gasping in shock when he read one from a friend he lost touch with years ago… It now sits by his bed side and he picks it up and flicks through it every little while.




31 thoughts on “Forty and fantastic

  1. Happy birthday again, to the OA! The gift sounded lovely, the videos were fabulous, I now want to see pictures of the book! Im sure he was stunned and happy 🙂

    That paragraph about him being from a dry and unemotional family, and you being the chatter-y full of life — so relate to it. VC wanted no fuss on his 30th. So much so that he convinced me I didnt want a fuss on my 30th. And you know what, it was still fun, even without the conventional hype and fuss over a number 🙂

    The week ahead sounds like an adventure! Haffun xoxx 😀

    • Yes! I want to see the book too. The gift is beautiful, the videos were hilarious, now we want to see book.
      And a happy, happy birth-week to your dashing OA. What a lovely man. 🙂

  2. Seriously? People couldn’t be bothered to write in? People surprise me with the depths they will sink to. After all, we are in the age of the internet. Bah.

    But anyway, glad the book turned out lovely, and a happy 40th to the OA.

  3. Many happy returns of the day to the OA. We may not know each other but I have read your posts enough to almost know you as my neighbours :). Hope you celebrate for many more years. Best wishes.

    • Happy birthday to OA- you guys are lovely together. May the madness and celebs always continue. Wishing you on the blog because that’s where I first got to know you. 🙂

  4. Happy birthday to the OA!! Fantastic gift. I know your pain as I did that for my mom’s 60th birthday. I got fab responses from unexpected folks while people I expected to jump in dithered.

  5. Happy birthday OA!! my very best wishes..

    please tell him that his wife is just too wonderful!

    Sujatha Ramesh

  6. Happy B’day to your young man 🙂 Wish him a fun and even happier decade ahead!

    N ya… my better half is much like the OA too.. doesn’t u’stand the need for fuss and celebration. Me on the other-hand grew up getting everything from my towel new on B’days 🙂 love to be pampered on mine and love pampering loved ones on theirs.

  7. Happy Birthday to him again – and middle-aged? bah! The 40s are the best decade! Love the idea of a Birthweek – and looking forward to pictures!

    As for people writing in messages – I have learnt that writing scares the pants off most people. They simple cannot get their thoughts together enough. Especially when it’s supposed to be a special message – no words seem special enough, they worry they’ll sound stupid or maudlin or whatever – the list is endless. (Had put together a couple of commemorative books for a club I administer – the most work was getting the messages from people) – have now realized it’s easier to call people, tell them I will record their words right there and ask them to speak. (I transcribe fast, but I also have a recorder) – should think this would be second nature to you!

    • You know I realised that but I honestly didn’t have the time. Most people are not free in the day time at work. So that means calling at night. When he was home. When I had kids, dinner, bath, bedtime…
      So many were in a different time zone. Next time I’ll know better. But this time I only kept enough time to collate and layout. 😦

  8. Arey, what about the book? His reaction? How did he like it? I agree nothing is better than words. No wordsmith like you but doing something so similar for a friend’s baby shower, it’s uncanny.

    I feel like the nice ones do some times bear the brunt of it. Don’t underestimate yourself; your firebrand self will get lots of write-ins. I look at my husband, my daughter – the easy, the gentle, the well meaning and I wonder if in this world where the loud and sensational win, what will happen of them. So like you were this week, we will be their keepers. We will shout louder than their pasts and futures combined, let them know what they mean to us. Love is not about how many wrote in. It’s about the few and what they wrote (and sang). Happy 40th to the OA. Makes him even more attractive to me. Have you shown him my aforementioned bone structure?

  9. What a lovely, lovely way to celebrate your old(not) man, MM. He and you deserve this child free, footloose week of fun. Erm…any plans for other kinds of naughty stuff(you know at 40 and all that) besides massages and the likes?:-)

    I LOLed so much at the Bean being Big Mouth and going “We all know where mama went but we’re not….” She’s got a matching bro right here 10 going on 30 I tell ya. He begins many conversations with “I’m not supposed to be telling you this…” and then goes on to tell in excruciating detail anyways.

    Sheesh, that reminds me. I get there in a year’s time and have to start dropping subtle hints beginning this year that I do want meself a birth’week. It sounds like so much fun. The very practical, unromantic, unsentimental guy I live with will never think of it on his own. He needs serious help.

    Happy Birthday OA. At 40 you begin reverse aging or so the 44 year old I live with tells me:-)

  10. Whaaaa! Did he like the book? Obviously he must have but MM you can’t leave out telling us what his reaction was to all the notes and messages.

  11. Happy Happy birthday to OA..

    and hey 30 or 40 or whatever is a number .. I feel younger each year.. I have done more things now then i did when i was below 30..

    and that was so very nice of you .. lovely idea .. I would not mind a Birthday week sometime ..

  12. Happy, happy birthday to the OA! 🙂

    Loved the way you guys are celebrating his birth’week’, with experiences you’ve always wanted to have. Loved the concept of the birthday wishes book too – so thoughtful of you, MM!

  13. Beautiful piece. Tasted like a birthday cake. You are a star. And he is one of the most good looking men living on the face of this earth. Please tell him that a young (you can add pretty) woman, a decade younger to him said that to him.

  14. The book sounds like such a wonderful idea. I love that any time he feels low or blue (hopefully never), he can just flick through the book for an instant pick-me-up.

    How you come up with such lovely ideas, men? Whattey a star you are to do all of this!

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