I was busy writing a fashion story when I am reminded by one of my colleagues’ of a birthday bash of another colleague’s baby girl. I had some 45 minutes to wrap up my story, do a bit of touch up, book a cab and land at the venue.
I rechecked the birthday invitation message in one of my office WhatsApp groups before booking a cab to Rajgarh in Guwahati. I was hungry and looking forward to enjoying some hot-pipping luchi-mangsho.
It was around 7 pm when I reached the venue for the birthday celebration. There was a large, colourful canopy, fairy lights all over, a water fountain, people dressed as iconic comic characters running all around. There was also a man playing the piano at one corner and remarkably, all the toddlers were dressed in pink (girls) and blue (boys). For a moment, I felt lost and quite alien. I along with my colleagues started to look around for my colleague and her daughter (the birthday girl).
All the ladies around us were dressed in shinny attires and sipping drinks of their choice. The men were busy talking about the sulking economy of the country. CCTVs were installed and around the venue. Few mothers were posing for Instagrammble photos with their children in the game zones. Everything about the celebration was exclusively planned – from pink shiny gas balloons, four-tier pink cake to elaborate goody bags.
As I made myself comfortable in one of the couches, a lady from the food counter-offered a glass of fresh and ‘organic’ orange juice and ‘fat-free’ snacks whose name I forgot even before leaving the venue. A large spread – Italian, Indian, Chinese and Continental – was organised for the guests.
Upscale decor, designer cake, fancy invitation, gourmet meals, photo booth – the whole set-up for a birthday celebration seemed extremely unreal for me and made me crave for the days when we used to celebrate birthdays with home-made food.
I clearly remember, every year during my birthday, my mother would prepare luchi, matar ghugni and payosh. The aunties of my colony would also help my mother to fry luchi as guests start coming to wish me. In the afternoon, my mother would send me along with my elder brother to invite the kids of my colony to come to our house in the evening.
We would play hide-and-seek and I would be reprimanded if I didn’t ‘thank you’ to the uncles and aunties while accepting their wishes and gifts.
Cake cutting was introduced quite late but the main menu remained unchanged till I left Dibrugarh and shifted to Tezpur to pursue my high studies.
At night, we would unwrap the gift boxes. Pencil boxes, pens, dolls, notebooks, colour boxes – ah! the joy…no word can describe it. In my time, there was no such concept as ‘return gifts’.
A local photographer would be called to click a few photos; father and brother would decorate the house with balloons and colourful festoons. There was a sense of affinity, belongingness, and togetherness. We knew all our guests’ names. We would get offended when one Kalita aunty refuses to take ‘aru eta luchi’. We would be happy when Bora aunty says, ‘Payosh bohut bhal hoise’. We would talk about birthday celebrations for many coming days.
Today, birthday or any other celebration is an extravagant affair. People hire professionals to organize the celebrations, create hashtags on social media.
No offense, to the ones, organizing such parties but the celebration is all about coming together – enjoying a meal, cracking jokes and making memories. Birthday celebrations today have an elaborate menu and maybe today’s kid will never know the charm of indulging in luchi, matar ghugni and payosh sitting on a bed.
As I move towards the dessert counter, I look for my favourite payosh. It’s missing. Just like the good ol’ days.
But I am sure, just like yoga, ghee, khadi, desi khana are back in fashion – luchi, matar ghugni and payosh too would make a blockbuster comeback.
The views expressed by the author are personal and may not in any way represent those of TIME8.
Photo credit: mamamia