Somebody sends you a card and you feel happy . Somebody bakes you a cake and you feel happy . Somebody offers you a bouquet of flowers and you feel happy . Somebody throws a party for you – in actual fact or on Zoom -￼and you feel happy . Some people sing a song and you feel happy . You go to offer special prayers -￼ what devotion ! – and you feel happy . People greet you on the phone by making calls or sending you messages on WhatsApp or otherwise , or on Facebook , or Messenger , or Skype , and you feel happy . Somebody takes you out for dinner and you feel happy . Somebody gives you a chocolate or a gift and you feel happy .
But do you really feel happy ? And for how many was this an unavoidable chore .
O yes , you are supposed to be happy . You may even think or persuade yourself that you are happy .
But are you ? What is there to be happy about ?
There goes one more year out of limited number of years in your life . You have one less year left to live .
But does that really matter ?
Can you stop time passing ? Can you help the fact that you were born ? What is the great fuss all about ?
On reflection , she decided to cancel her birthday .
But then she realised even that was not in her hands .
She thought : you may even delude yourself into believing that all the people who remember your birthday – nudged by Facebook or LinkedIn or some other algorithm or the Civil List or a calendar or maybe a personal reference point like their own or a child’s birthday or wedding anniversary – do not think it is a chore to have to do something about it , that they really care about you and want to show their appreciation and make you happy , but you would have to be pretty good at self -￼hypnotism to do so .
She wanted to hold herself close , the instinct was to hide . She cringed when she thought about all the people who were being pushed by the algorithms on social media to greet her when they were busy trying to do other things or otherwise going about their own business – how intrusive , she thought , and wished she could end this banal brashness in as much as it was practised on her behalf . She wondered if it was possible to remove her date of birth from everything . Probably not, and she did not want to wrestle with technical issues anyway .
So she just switched off her phones , and computers , and the￼￼ WiFi , shut her doors , went to bed and refused to budge for the next twenty four hours . She slept much of the time and spent the rest of it thinking random thoughts . The poor Birthday came , hung around for its allotted time , and then left , as it was destined to do .
Slowly , cautiously , she emerged from under the covers . The world looked the same as before . What a relief !
She got up , lit the gas stove , made herself a cup of tea , exactly as she liked it , and sipped it at her leisure , with real enjoyment .
( Amita￼ Sarjit Ahluwalia )