His First Cake

At the stroke of the midnight a birthday chocolate cake was dished from the box in which it had arrived. It was then carefully transferred on to a tray and placed on the center table. Everyone in the house gathered around and marvelled at its smooth velvety texture. It was a special day for all us but particularly for one for whom the cake had arrived.

My Pa-in-law has turned 83, to be exact. And guess what – it was the first cake of his life.

Family members from India and overseas had all descended in Mumbai for the grand occasion. It included all his five daughters, a son, a niece, a nephew, plus one of the sons-in laws of the couple, arriving from distant places like Kanpur, Hyderabad and Dubai. The rest, were from Mumbai itself. On one such occasion, I had named this association – All India Sisters’ Conference, which gained popularity, and later on with one of the member moving out to Dubai, it turned into International Conference of Sisters. So, it happened to be the 2014 session of the conference.

Coming back to the main event, i.e., the musical evening, by six. It was lovely to see everyone dressed up in their finest attire, especially the ladies who by the look of it had planned all their wardrobe for the evening well in advance. Deciding to capture the mood of the evening, I could not help myself but go and fetch my digital camera.

The guests had started to come in and greet the grand old man of our family. As I was busy clicking away to glory, I could hear the musicians arrive and to my utter surprise the living room soon resembled and sounded more like a thriving beehive, buzzing with excitement and laughter and punctuated by the notes that were originating from the musical instruments that were being getting all tuned up for the show to begin.

Meanwhile snack plates and trays were also making their usual rounds. On the menu were potato wafers with light sprinkle of salt, cashew nuts and fired stuffed (sindhi) spicy khasta and of course there was the usual party hopper – the kaju barfi which came in diamond shapes.

And then, all of a sudden without any prior notice to all those gathered, the musicians decided to get their harmonium into action, accompanied by the table. Time to get in the shoes of the photographer I thought and switched my camera on.

And mind you …the “Happy Birthday to You” was a chorus in Hindi and not in English as it is usually the norm. The mood was all set and I could see cheerful faces lit with excitement. What followed next was various melodies numbers that got the audience to tune up their individual vocal cords.

Personally, many of those numbers that were being sung got me nostalgic, as I myself had sang them in numerous musical evenings that me and my wife often attend in our hometown in Kanpur.

Every single person in that room was enjoying thoroughly, clapping to the rhythm, but the star of the evening turned out to be my Mom-in-law who is 81 years old and who seemed to have failed to resist the temptation of shaking a leg or two (Indian folk style), sprang up on her feet and broke into a rapturous dance. Unmindful of those present, the lady swayed to the lilting music with so much grace, her face radiating like that of a young girl.

For me the lady (Mom-in-law) carries a style, reminiscent of the golden era of the black and white films. It was so sweet to see her trying to get the eye of her husband with a rather mischievous glint in eyes, patting/tapping on his hands and sometimes on to his shoulder. I could see emotions running riot on his face making his eyes moist.

All those gathered were touched by the spirit of the moment. And after about more than three hours of non-stop music, it was about time to wind up and gather around the dinner table.

On the menu were peas with cottage cheese, pumpkin cooked in a special recipe, fried small Indian bread called pooris. And yes, my wife’s famous Dahi bada that were laced with mouth-watering spices, easily seemed to play the showstopper. She had prepared them especially for this particular occasion.

With dinner done, the guests started trickling out one-by-one into the night. As the last guest bid his adieu the family members also decided to call it a day, but not before wishing our 83 year-old birthday boy many more birthday cakes in the coming years.

But for him this chocolate cake, his first ever birthday cake in 83 years, will remain etched in his mind and soul for as long as he lives.

Happy Birthday Pa-in-Law !

——-Ashok Misra

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