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.