Skip to main content

Happy Birthday to You

Of late, I've been thinking a lot about birthdays (well, I haven't, actually, but a chap's got to have a topic to write about, hasn't he?). It seems a little strange to me, celebrating the day you came into the world, crying a lot and pooping excessively. And let's face it, the way we celebrate birthdays is a little creepy. I mean, think about this:

'Several people are gathered around an object on fire, chanting a repetitive song. One among them carries a knife. They extinguish the object and plunge the knife into it. The rest of the group stops chanting and spontaneously bursts into applause. '  - Description of a birthday party by some chap on Tumblr

I mean, come on, tell me that doesn't sound like a scene from a cult horror film. But, strange cult rituals aside, I decided to do some research (read: click the first three links on a Google search) about birthdays. So, read on to learn some stuff about birthdays that you may or may not really care about.

First off, no one knows birthdays were first celebrated (actually, Wikipedia doesn't know when birthdays were first celebrated, but I assume that the entirety of mankind's learning through the ages is hosted on Wikipedia's servers). I'm actually not even going to try to guess when they began, because whatever date I come up with, someone is certain to come up with an even older date and tell me, "Come on, Ritvik, do some real research next time!" I also feel quite good about myself because I just successfully dedicated an entire paragraph to something I'm not actually going to tell you about.

So, what do people actually do on birthdays? We all know the kind of birthday where we have a cake and a bunch of people singing the Happy Birthday song (apparently, it's actually the last stanza of the "Good Morning To You" song by Patty and Mildred Hill. I still find it hard to get over the fact that I've been calling this song by  the wrong name for the entirety of my existence). In Ghana, the birthday kid gets something called "oto", which  is a dish made of made of fried, mashed sweet potato and eggs. Frankly, I'd be much happier to get a pizza and some cake or, considering it's Ghana, some chocolate, but as they say, to each their own.

Other cultures only celebrate certain birthdays. For instance, teenagers in most cultures celebrate the acquisition of the age of majority by waiting until their parents are asleep and then getting obscenely drunk at the nearest public house. Jewish boys celebrate something called a 'Bar Mitzvah' on their 13th birthdays (girls, for some reason, have it on their 12th birthdays and call it a 'Bat Mitzvah'). Honestly, I've no clue what exactly they have to celebrate, because it represents the day that they have to begin actively participating in the rituals and can no longer stay home and  watch TV while Mom and Dad head off to the synagogue. Hindu boys celebrate their 13th birthdays by sitting in front of a fire and pouring ghee into it while a priest mutters words under his breath in a language that no one really understood in the first place. And in return for their trouble, they get a string tied from their shoulders to their waists and the added responsibility of saying a mantra 108 times every day.

All of this has been an extremely long way of saying that I had no clue what I was going to write about today. I seized on the topic of birthdays because my mother's was last week. Anyway, thanks for reading. If you know about any other birthday rituals, tell me in the comments. Actually, just give me a comment saying anything at all. Seriously, if you don't, I'm coming to your house with a knife - and I ain't bringing no cake.


  1. This is so weird. I just put a cake in the oven before reading this blog! And i'm not an avid baker or anything. Are you stalking me? :)

    1. Of course he is! He stalks anything and everything XD

    2. Well... Maybe. I mean, I might not be.

  2. The Birthday song had to fight a lot for its freedom!

    1. Well, it's nice to know that I no longer have to pay a company to use the "Happy Birthday" song. Not that I ever paid anyone. It's just nice to know that I'll never have to.

  3. Wow, clearly i have the most boring birthdays. I went to Star bucks for my birthday.... that's really sad

    1. Come now, unknown, I'm sure you quite enjoyed Starbucks. Nothing wrong with a good cup of coffee, is there?

    2. Come now, unknown, I'm sure you quite enjoyed Starbucks. Nothing wrong with a good cup of coffee, is there?


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Are We There Yet?

I've always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with travel. I love the idea of going to new places, meeting new people, seeing new cultures and all that fun stuff. What I don't like about travelling is the actual getting-from-place-to-place part of it. The countless hours spent sitting in trains and buses and planes and cars, the mindless tedium of endless highway zipping by, that's the part of travelling I don't like.

I had this driven home to me last week when we were coming back from Chennai. We had spent a couple of days there and Mom had booked us on a train at half past five in the evening. The ride from Chennai to Bangalore takes around five hours by train. Let me repeat that: five long, boring hours of sitting on a train.

Normally, I'd be completely OK with this - I'd have my phone and my headphones with me. I'd plug my ears as soon as we were on board the train and ignore the existence of everyone else for most of the trip. This time, though, I …

Drumming Up a Following

After several years of putting it off and/or being unable to do so for a variety of reasons, I've finally taken up learning an instrument - or, more specifically, the drums. Guitar seemed a little too common an instrument and keyboard was never really my thing, so drums seemed the best choice. Which is why now I sit pondering my next sentence whilst whacking my drumsticks on my bed rather than thoughtfully scratching my chin.

Most of my friends have learned to play some instrument at some point or the other, and most of them stuck with it for long enough to still remember how to play at least something on it even now. I, however, spent my younger years coding or cooking or... well, something that was quite patently not music, anyway. Oh, my parents spent more than their fair share of money on music classes. I just never really had an interest in them growing up. I have spent countless hours, at ages seven and below, at music classes attempting to learn to play the keyboard or the …

Talking Trouble

I want to begin this post by saying that I don't volunteer to speak. I'm not one of those guys who's always MCing this or giving a speech about that. I speak in public only if I have no other choice, and those situations come by rarely enough that I've had very little experience actually being on stage and talking.

Last week, though, I was at an NCC camp, and the PI (Permanent Instructor, for you non-NCC folk) staff decided that I should host an event on account of I spoke decent English. Normally, I would refuse, but in the NCC, if they ask you to jump over a cliff, you need to have been over that cliff five minutes ago. You don't get to ask why you're jumping off of a cliff, you just jump. So it was that three days into the camp, I found myself on stage with a co-MC I didn't really know, in a uniform that I had lost the knack of wearing and holding a mic that caught, oh, about 50% of the words you spoke into it.

At first, I was incredibly nervous. The pre…