I was told about a particular teacher, who happened to observe a group of girls celebrating the birthday of a particular Indian movie actor in a school. (I forget whether it was Salman Khan or Shahrukh Khan’s, but certainly it was one of them). The teacher went to them and conveyed to them his appreciation for a celebrity’s birthday.
And then he casually asked the girls, “Do you know when your parents were born?” which silenced them all. Most of them, I am sure, did not know their parents’ date of birth.
Last evening, I attended one of my nieces’ birthday. It was a decent gathering of family members and friends and relatives.
Now people of my generations or a generation before that would know that celebrating birthdays is fairly a new culture in Bhutan. But it is gaining popularity by the day. And some day in future our younger generations would assume this was always a part of us.
Most of us in Bhutan (especially those born in the villages) don’t know the exact dates of our birth. Back then our parents had little or no knowledge to record the event. Later our health officials ended up interpreting wrongly, the lunar calendar dates to Gregorian calendar. In Lunar calendar, days or sometimes even the months skip or repeat; thereby making it difficult to get the exact day.
For instance, my mother claims that I was born on a Sunday on the 10th day of the 12th month, but when our health officials drafted my birth certificate, they recorded it as February 10 of that particular year. Later on, when I looked up, that day happened to be a Monday. And my cousins, who were 7-8 months older than me became several months my junior.
I know my story may not be unique for majority of Bhutanese who are by default born on January 1. Of course, it is a memorable way to begin the New Year!
Today, we can possibly record even the exact second or minute our children are born.
We did not even remember our birthdays, but today’s children do not forget it. That’s why our children would grow up celebrating their birthdays. And parents would end up spending more and more on them.
Today, some birthdays have become so lavish that they could even feed a village for a week or two. Some parents arrange their children’s birthdays in expensive hotels.
But again, we live in a pompous generation. We may not have enough to spend on our parents’ sickness or conduct rimdros or have no money to support our siblings’ education, but birthdays are big exceptions.
I think it is okay as long as we do it genuinely, with open hearts and are not vain about it. Welcome to the Birthday Generation!
by Nawang P Phuntsho
The writer works in an NGO and lives in Thimphu