Thursday, July 29, 2010


Having a birthday, when you are some nth standard uniform-wearing student in school, is the most horrendous thing that can happen to you. Do you remember being allowed to wear "color 'dress'" on your birthday? That single gap in the "color 'dress'" rule gave way to a lot of connected events that went on to cause havoc in my life. The first thing that happens when people look and wonder at you in color 'dress' is - that they look at you and wonder. Any other day you could have passed away anonymously in the blue and more navy blue uniform. You are one among the thousand students who are never noticed. On this day, in terms of drawing attention to yourself, you are wearing something worse than what Bruce Willis wore on opening scenes of Die Hard 3, when he had to go to Harlem. Its like nobody can miss noticing you. You have a target shaped sign marked on your forehead. Somebody is going to ask you for a chocolate soon. And you don't have an unlimited supply.

Then there is this dreaded PT sir who always is on the lookout for students coming in color dress because their moms miscalculated the laundry cycle. The way PT sirs are coded, they hit you and then ask questions. So in Pennathur Subramaniam school, one had to yell - "saar today is my happy birthday saar" in order to avoid the preemptive whack. As if announcing your own birthday isn't shameful enough some schools like SBOA made you stand in the front of the assembly to celebrate your birthday. A teacher who you only recognize as being a pompous show-off will announce in the mike "And here are the dear children who are celebrating their birthdays today..". Standing in front of N thousand students singing "happy birthday dear Amudha/stephen/Madhan/.." means you delayed the assembly by 3 minutes with that stupid birthday song. On a hot sunny day - many students don't appreciate that.

The culture of bringing chocolates and distributing them to your classmates was a nerve wracking thing within itself. When do you get up from your bench/chair and start distributing? And when you do get up - the first recipient you stick-out the chocolate bag to - doesn't get it. And a split-second later the bulb glows and he puts his hand inside the chocolate bag. That moment of getting up and walking to some one's bench (typically the first bench) to distribute sweets takes a lot of courage. Seriously!!, a man who has done that has more courage than a man who has run naked across the Arctic circle. Isn't it odd to abruptly stand and start distributing chocolates to arbitrary people? What if the teacher doesn't get it and asks "what are you doing not sitting in your bench"? Alternatively, asking for permission "Ma'am can I distribute chocolates, as it is my birthday today" is a shame. This is what girls who sit in first bench who have loud voices do. You don't want to be like them. It is easier to do this if there are two people celebrating birthdays on that day. Then you can get up when he/she gets up. Piggy backing on the opening the other guy created is the best birthday gift ever.

But this leads to chocolate wars. Whose chocolates were better? The previous day you spend time convincing your father that Choco-Bite and Eclairs is what is you give out in rich schools like Ida Scudder and that the yellow color/orange-flavored hard chocolate that I always asked for is soooo thirunelveli. You turn up the next day and find bespectacled Kalyanaraman is not only celebrating his birthday the same day as you (because his real birthday falls the next day which is a Saturday) but also handing out Diary milk. Diary Milk!!! Not just for the entire class but to all 5 sections. He is not Kalyanaraman but DabbuPartyRaman. The Choco Bite looks like a wimp. Actually not. You look like a wimp. The choco bite is glad that its wrapped inside the cover as it can't bear to see the ignominy. To compensate for such terrible things - the great thing on birthdays was neither your parents nor your teachers beat you up. You could do anything and you'd get away with it - that day. Even that girl in the first bench (the boring one with the loud voice) who complained to teachers that you talked too much in class, gave you a break.

My birthday always happened in the middle of 1st mid-term exams. Up until 8 AM my mother would be yelling at me, trying to make me memorize differences between sedimentary rocks and Igneous rocks. At the stroke of 8 AM - suddenly - she'd be all smiles and give me the dreaded color dress and a bag of chocolates. Schizophrenic adults. Who is interested in chocolates when Geography mid-term exam is going on? Today 1-year olds have a party with 80 people attending. In those days, having a party just because the date and month in that day's calendar matched that of a person's birthdate is what rich kids from Adayar Shishyas and Anna Nagar did. Mylapore people went to the Srinivasa/Kesava perumal temple for an 'archanai'. Once a party was attempted in the evening with 8 shit-scared kids with food consisting of 'mixture' and a plum cake (ywack!). The kids and their moms were all talking about the next day's Social Studies exam for the whole time. I promptly came back with a 31 out of 50 for that exam. End of Experiment.

The advantage of growing older is that birthdays can be hidden. But in a strange way it also reminds you that you can't be the "King for a day" anymore. That you are old and you have to provide for rather than be provided for. And despite all the inconveniences a birthday offered in school, you kind of miss that.


Anonymous said...

Good one...Happy birthday Hawkeye...

Anupadmaja said...

"Igneous Igneous Igneous!" - read in the same tone as "Maadhesh Maadhesh Maadhesh!" :)

By the way, I never got any chocolates. M&Ms dont count. I even sang happy birthday to you.

blackaccord said...

Another good thing with birthdays is all the money you could get for falling at the feet of elders (Namaskaram panradhu or Sevikkardhu) like thatha, mama, next door mama etc... Typically that was the only time we could get some pocket money for ourselves..
btw, archanai only in srinivasar (vedantha desigar) kovil :)..
No KP kovil here..

Anonymous said...

The dapa in which u distribute choclates maters..u cant use the plastic cover the nadar kadai karan gave..worser,paper wrapped choclates..Fancy ppl bring a big trnasparrent dappa..while I used the light blue plastic cover :(

Anonymous said...


Bala said...

too good..
btw which PS are you from? Senior?Matric or higher?

Anonymous said...

Igneous.. and Metamorphic.. :)

I'm from PS Senior.. Judging from your post, I think you are too (unless of course the same stuff happened in Matric and Higher as well)...

Badri said...

I had this problem too. So, during my Bday my hindi teacher (strict and totally unlikeable, my poor hindi didnt help much!)asked me where are the chocolates. I don't know why I did it, but I took my chocolate bag and took just one lacto king toffee and just gave it to her (All other students, stretch out the chocolate box and teachers pick from the box) . I believe she stopped asking chocolates from then on!

R-ambam said...

Happy Birthday ! Wish u many more happy returns of the day !

Rastafari said...

Absolutely real

Anonymous said...

So you're from P.S.Senior?

D.N.A. said...

Anon who commented on dapa type, Touche!

Extra-Ordinarily Ordinary said...

Birthday ku chocolate, color dress, birthday bums, orey the ignominious part of life!

Dinesh Jayaraman said...

Super post.
"The way PT sirs are coded, ...."

Aditi said...

On one of my birthdays,I went into an empty classroom(I don't know why)and saw that the there was a better chocolate than mine on the teacher's desk.So,I took that and left an eclair for her!!

Victor Guerra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Victor Guerra said...

"Saar today is my happy birthday saar" - I couldnt resist laughing out loud at this one.....this post sounded like my biography!

Anonymous said...

It's funny to read this post because I spent all my school years longing for the chance to wear "colour dress". In our school, birthday celebrities would choose boring periods to go out to give chocolates to teachers in the other classes! I couldn't do any of it, because my birthday fell during summer vacations.
Thanks to you, now I know grass is indeed greener on the other side!


Sreekrishnan said...

Piranthanaal Vazhtukkal Thalaivaa !

until 6th I thought it was a custom that I "Should"wear color and look odd, but 8th i knew that i can rebel [and fail]. 9th std brought an end to it. Piranthanaal was never the same after that.

Sathyanarayana kovil in W. Mambalam and thats it.

Now 7 kazhuthai vayasu apprum [majority wannabe vadakathi] frnds wants me to Cut Cake. I Rebel again !

Pipa said...

Back in form again. Nice!


MLC said...

many happy returns of the day!

Anonymous said...

Back in form indeed!! One of the best posts...this is one of those posts which got me to follow u 3 years back....hope u continue the good form....

Pradeep said...

Was always lucky enough to avoid birthdays since it was in May!! :)

Nice post btw!

Sandhya Varadharajan said...

my father showed me this article and I read it. Schizophrenic adults. Cant agree more. you are on dot. Even today moms are discussing school subjects while we play at regular places. I think they overdo such stuff.

Hawkeye said...

anon, R-ambam, MLC,



are you saying your maamiyar did not teach me geograaphee well? I got the 'IG' correct. adhuve perusu. btw i gave a Diary Milk this time


wow... your folks are too much. we dont see that paarubaksham. my folks are equal opprtunity on "kilai". KP is a much older temple. desikar is more active.


i used a plastic cover. Rs 5 on the dappa was well spent buying more chocolates.




PS Senior.. lived right next to it as well. but many yrs ago.


not from PS high school. we thought they were 'porikki pasanga' :-)

sorry about the rocks.. i was 'just pass' in geo


you missed a great 'ice vecching opportunity'. teachera ice vekkardhu idhaan best time.






was introduced to birthday bums in college. i couldnt be;ieve such a concept existed. romba kodumai




You should have pretended to have given the better chocolate to the teacher.. that is arasiyal thandhiram


thanks :-)


you were spared of several miseries. grass is greener though


w.mambalam was ponnu oodu and mylai was mappilai veedu. born in such a family only after ettangilass it was personal appearance @ s.narayana temple . until then it was sure-archanai and maybe-appearance in s.narayana.


thanks. what is this name 'pipa'?


thanks. :-)


:-) thanks


my feeling is such over-fretting on primary secondary school kids has less/no 'real' impact in the long run. most people I want to be were not 1st rankers or academically awesome 99%s

TTM said...

The tune of the happy birthday song goes helplessly out of gear when the birthday kid has a name like Loganathan or Mangaiyarkarasi.

Sankara said...

I have always felt that B'day in schools were odd. In my school, apart from the usual 'assembly blockage', we had to contribute a book to the school library and inturn the school gave us a pack of chocolates(probably worth 40 bucks). Some students considered it prestigeous to give 'costly' books to school! I stopped celebrating Bday from class 5 I think.

Kokki Kumarru said...

I could never ever forget that 25 pisa Aasai chocolate.

Kokki Kumarru said...

pipa is a papa whose so fat that you myt mistake her for a gas cylinder..

Deekshanya said...

very beautiful post. Loved it very much. Nothing like school life and these little rituals like celebrating birthdays, leave announced unexpectedly(CM dies, principal dies, heavy rains, etc) and the like. Nostalgic and at the same time hilarious, enjoyed it a lot.


Vatsa said...

Wasn't the colour dress a good way to avoid Black marks on that day :-) Long live PS Sr.