Birthday celebrations in my office- or rather, of the team that I’m remotely a part of- are very jolly affairs you know. Like, fun in all caps.
Here’s how it usually goes.
There I’ll be, working/sleeping/browsing away at my desk, when someone will come and inform “Divya, so-and-so’s birthday today. Cake cutting in pantry. Come.” So I get up after ten minutes and three reminders, and go to the pantry, all set for a mini-party.
There will be about 15 people there, all solemnly standing, like how we used to stand in school during Martyr’s Day, observing one-minute silence. Heads slightly bent downward, hands tied in the front. You got the picture no? Some of them will be looking at the floor, some at the cake. So I’ll also join this merry group. The person whose birthday it is will be recognizable only because he/she will be standing in front of the cake, not because they look even remotely excited that it’s their birthday and that a bunch of people ordered cake for him/her. After standing like this for two minutes, someone in the crowd will try to crack a sad joke, asking the birthday boy/girl/uncle to cut the cake. So out comes one shiny plastic see-through knife, with a red bow around it.
First cut through the cake- silence.
Second cut through the cake- silence.
Once the first piece has been successfully cut, someone from the audience will remember and start a feeble rendition of “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you”. So lively is the singing that it’ll seem as though the song was originally a mourning song and somewhere over the years, someone swapped the lyrics. We’ll all clap also, for formality. We all have mehendi on our hands, so we can’t clap all that loudly and all, ok.
Then the birthday person will look for the nearest mouth to thrust the cake into. Since no one’s really close to anyone in the group, the most senior person there gets this honour. If that boss type person is not there, then whoever is standing closest gets lucky.
Now comes the best part. Small paper plates are passed around, with cake and potato chips. For the next five minutes, all you can hear is *munch munch crunch crunch random conversation munch crunch nice cake crunch crunch*. I’m not exaggerating. All you can hear is the crunch of the potato chips. And everyone’s looking studiously into their plates, because, you know, there’s a difficult maze to work your way around to get to the goodies. Since there is no conversation happening, everyone finishes their plate soon and looks around. You remember how, when you’re writing as exam and you finish early, you always wait for someone else to give in the paper first, just so it doesn’t make you look bad? Same scene here. Everyone waits for someone else to go take the second helping of cake and chips. More often than not, that person would be me. Ya, I can be shameless like that. Then a second round of potato-chips crunching. Once in a while, if you happen to catch someone’s eye by accident, customary smiles are also exchanged.
Oh I forgot to mention- the cake facial also happens. And while the facial is being done, the birthday person will be standing there with no expression or reaction whatsoever- no protest, no laughing, no struggle. Just merely standing there, as though it’s not cake but haldi-&-cream that’s being applied for their wedding.
Second round of eating also over. Now unless you want to seem like a glutton, you decide not to take a third helping. So there really is no point in hanging around anymore either, right? So I look at the birthday person, give a big smile, wish happy birthday, crack the same joke I crack every single time about how we’re all eating but forgot to wish the person (which, surprisingly elicits, the same kind of painful laughter every time), and scoot from there.
Total fun, right? I know.
So then why do I go to these ‘parties’, when it’s so much fun (NOT), you ask?
Because, like Saif Ali Khan once said, “Cake khaane ke liye hum kaheen bhi jaa sakte hai!”