I had to leave early this morning for office. It was 6.15 when I started from home. The sun was still in the sleepy mode and the only source of light was the street lamps. I live in the suburbs of Mumbai which is close to nature and here the temperature decisively drops a degree or two more than it does for the city. And even then it is not cold enough to clad in woolens. I just had a wrap around my kurti; both garments thick enough to offer me warmth.
Yet the chill in the air made it little difficult for me to fight my keenness to get back home. It was difficult to kill the urge of going back and tuck myself in my snug bed. The pink floral bedspread, the fluffy pillow, the comfy mattress were calling for me, I could hear their voices…oh so welcoming. But, work had a stronger voice and I was piloted towards it.
So, there I was waiting for an auto- rickshaw when I saw them. Dressed in red sweaters, ears covered with cute knitted woolen ear scarves, they stood across the street with their respective guardians. Their beige and red uniforms were peeking through the warm clothing giving away their school's identity. One of them looked from a different school though. The girl had her hair done in a different way and her pink frock and ballerinas told a different story. Then it clicked-Of course, she is the birthday girl.
Birthdays were always special during school days. I think it's still is. One gets to wear fancy new clothes, no boring uniform, no boring hairdos. But, I never got to do that. Every year I longed to wear my birthday dress and flaunt it…every year I craved to stand on the alter and listen merrily to the entire school singing "Happy Birthday" during the morning school assembly… every year I desired to distribute candies and toffees to my classmates. All these never ever happened until we were in 10th grade.
No my parents had nothing to do with this discrimination I faced nor it was an illegal practice, there was no superstitions attached to it either and neither our constitution denied me of this right. The reason was my birthday always fell during Diwali Vacations (I was born on Diwali). Okay, so my parents did have something to do with it, they had me on Diwali. Anyhow, vacations meant no school… except 10th grade when we had our extra classes conducted. Still, it wasn't much fun given that extra classes never required any student to wear uniforms and by that time everyone thought it to be juvenile to sing "Happy Birthday" and eat candies. Those rituals were meant for kiddos. Yet, it was something to me.
A rickshaw halted in front of me with the driver giving me the 'for hire!' Look. I jumped in within seconds and looked at the birthday girl for the last time before my ride took me away.