It was my 7th birthday. We used to live in Doha, Qatar at the time and the feeling I most clearly remember is one of utter independence. I don’t recall what about 7 had made me feel like I was grown up but something had- and despite the fact that the invitees were an unusual mix of my parents friends, their kids, our neighbours, and relatives, the party still felt like my very own. I had spent 3 days, using a long handled broom cleaning the sand from our rooftop. Then I took loopy crepe paper and with my mother’s help, we made a big 7 inside the main gate right above the patio which then stayed stuck there for ages, until the crepe papers colour started fading in the sun.
Flashes of another birthday at the same house in Qatar, my baby sister sitting on our green sofa, being yogurt by my mom, She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain playing in the back on our tape deck and my dad filling several large balloons with sweets and confetti- our own home made pinatas. The cake was a clown face, my mothers famous chocolate cake (the one with the deep bakey smell) and I vaguely remember that when I was cutting it, there was some drama. I think a friend also wanted to cut it and I was indignant but my parents made me share it. I remember all too clearly not liking that friend for the rest of the evening and not understanding why we have to be the nicer ones on our own birthday. I also remember that my big chunky pencil – the one that was almost 2 feet long) was added to the gift bin by mistake, something I had trouble making peace with for number of days.
Another birthday I have vignettes of running in my head is the one with the sparkly Minnie mouse tee shirt and black jeans. It was a fancy dress- and in my head I was a rockstar, of course. It was a new outfit and my hair was very long, cut in the Parveen Babi frontal flop style, I was allowed to wear clear lip gloss and of course I felt every inch the glam 11 year old I was. Out of all the costimes, I remember I loved Sharon’s and Wasima’s the best, Sharon was a zombie and Wasima Little Red Riding Hood. My sister had her friend Mani over. My dad who always made the video, had asked his friend from Video Spot to send a guy with the camera and I was a in equal measure, impressed that I had a proper camera person at my birthday and upset that my dad broke the tradition. It was also the first birthday I actually recall my dad being late and a little on the sidelines. In all my early birthday memories, my dad is a big big part of the fun. With his guffaw and exuberance, he would draw out the shyest of my friends, encouraging them to dance with him in the big circle, after which everyone would be vying for a spot in the limelight with him. I recall feeling all swelly with pride at having such a fun father- one whose presence made your party a success.
A fourth grade party comes to mind when I didn’t want to invite this girl called Zoobia because she was new and I hadn’t made friends with her but because she was one of the 4 desi kids in class, and the rest were all invited, my mother made me invite her and her sister, who was in my sister’s class. I remember they came weary silvery tin-coloured shiny clothes and were very excited to be part of everything, despite not knowing anyone. From this birthday, I particularly remember my friend Laila and her lovely hairclips and how much I wanted a pair just like those.
I really must hunt for these pics.