HOW I PLANNED MY SON’S 4TH BIRTH­DAY

Delhi-based Deep Gupta, founder and on­wer of Me­dia Mile­stone, a brand man­age­ment firm, shares his rare and rather pre­cious ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing ‘Party Plan­ner’ for his son, Ayaan’s, Dis­ney-themed birth­day bash

Mother & Baby - - CONTENTS - VIS­UAL SHIPRA & AMIT CHHABRA

A dad’s stint at party plan­ning

PIC­TURE this: a grown man sit­ting cross-legged on the floor in a taste­fully-done up liv­ing room. Brightly coloured gift-wrap sheets are strewn all around him and the floor is a maze of as­sorted Dis­ney car­toon toys. It’s one o’clock in the morn­ing and every­one is asleep. There’s an oddly-sat­is­fy­ing hush that’s oc­ca­sion­ally in­ter­rupted by the rus­tle of the polka-dot­ted rib­bons the man is com­par­ing crit­i­cally, com­pletely ab­sorbed in putting to­gether the lit­tle de­tails that would make up what he con­sid­ers one of the big­gest days in the year. That vis­ual seems like some­thing out of those ide­al­is­tic Hol­ly­wood movies, but in fact, that man was me. Four years ago, on Fe­bru­ary 24, 2013, I was blessed with a beau­ti­ful baby boy. And life has been a grand ad­ven­ture ever since. This year, I was de­ter­mined to cel­e­brate one of the great­est days of my life, by throw­ing the best pos­si­ble birth­day party of my lit­tle man! Since the idea of a big birth­day bash for Ayaan seeped into my head, I had made it my mis­sion to en­sure the day would be one of the best days he’s had so far in his young life. When I’d ca­su­ally men­tioned my in­ten­tions to friends, they as­sumed I was talk­ing about hir­ing a party plan­ner while burn­ing a con­sid­er­ably large hole in my pocket. But my wife Seema, and the rest of my fam­ily, knew I’d some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent up my sleeve.

You see, Ayaan turn­ing four was a huge deal for me. From a wideeyed tod­dler tak­ing life as it came, Ayaan was be­gin­ning to be­come more self-aware and slowly un­der­stand the ways of the world. His first two birth­days had been more about us adults cel­e­brat­ing his happy ar­rival in our lives, and his third birth­day had been all about giv­ing back to so­ci­ety by spend­ing the day with 200+ lesser priv­i­leged chil­dren, and teach­ing Ayaan the joy of giv­ing be­fore re­ceiv­ing. But this year it was go­ing to be all about Ayaan. For many months lead­ing up to the party, Ayaan had been show­ing an in­creas­ing in­ter­est in all his lit­tle friends’ birth­day bashes, and would re­peat­edly ask me, “Papa, when will my birth­day come? Papa, how many times can I have a birth­day?” So yes, my lit­tle boy was full of an­tic­i­pa­tion for his big day, and I wanted to make sure that he loved ev­ery sec­ond of it.

Now my line of work re­volves around high-pro­file lux­ury and life­style brands; add to that my priv­i­leged up­bring­ing and the cir­cles I move in, nat­u­rally meant that I’d re­quire to put a pre­mium on ma­te­ri­al­ism. But the thing is, I knew the se­cret in­gre­di­ent to a truly mem­o­rable birth­day wouldn’t be money. The true joy lay in be­ing in­volved from start to fin­ish, and that’s the kid of val­ues and up­bring­ing my own par­ents had blessed me with. You can’t put a price on that!

That’s ex­actly why I knew that the only way I could truly make beau­ti­ful me­mories was by get­ting my hands dirty. Quite lit­er­ally. Now thanks to my fine ed­u­ca­tion from one of Asia’s best board­ing schools, but mostly to the ef­forts and ded­i­ca­tion of a very pa­tient mum, I took a keen in­ter­est in the arts. And who knew that one day, those skills would serve a rather fruit­ful pur­pose! Af­ter all, if my mum and dad hadn’t

in­vested their pre­cious time in me and my brother, I don’t know how dif­fer­ently I’d see things to­day. And that’s an­other rea­son I wanted to in­vest my time and en­ergy in giv­ing my son a spe­cial birth­day, and do­ing it my­self from scratch. Be­sides, my wife Seema took care of all the bak­ing. I did the rest!

Af­ter ze­ro­ing in on Mickey Mouse as the star of the theme, I put down a to-do list, and got crack­ing! From mak­ing a list of sup­plies I’d need for dec­o­ra­tions, re­turn gifts and en­sur­ing the par­ents ac­com­pa­ny­ing the kids were equally en­gaged, I knew I had my work cut out for me.

I’ll be hon­est, though—I had mo­ments of doubt when I’d feel over­whelmed by the enor­mity of the task. But Seema’s unswerv­ing sup­port and the prospect of mak­ing Ayaan in­de­scrib­ably happy kept me fu­elled with ideas and en­ergy. And that’s how I found my­self stay­ing up into the wee hours of the night—craft­ing party in­vites, brain­storm­ing Dis­neythemed games, pick­ing out pat­terned wrap­ping paper and bal­loons, spend­ing hours hand-wrap­ping the re­turn gifts, or­gan is in gt he bal­loons into colour-co­or­di­nated clus­ter sand even pay­ing the staff at the party venue to let me put the bal­loons up my­self! It was al­most three months of plan­ning, co­or­di­nat­ing and painstak­ing ef­fort. If i’m be­ing re­ally hon­est, there were nights I even dreamed about Mickey and gang. But be­fore I knew it, the big day had ar­rived.

We’ve a long­stand­ing tra­di­tion in my fam­ily to cut a cake at mid­night for all oc­ca­sions, be it birth­days, an­niver­saries, Moth­ers’ or Fa­thers’ day—any­thing at all. So as mid­night ap­proached, Ayaan was wide-awake and full of an­tic­i­pa­tion. I asked him to sit tight in his room while I got the Mickey cake out and made sure all the gifts and Dis­ney toys were in plain sight. With a deep breath and quick prayer, we brought Ayaan out. Watch­ing his young face go from cu­rios­ity to sur­prise, then un­bri­dled ex­cite­ment— that was a mo­ment of sheer magic. The lit­tle fel­low rushed head­long into the room, ex­cit­edly call­ing his dada and dadi, urg­ing his un­cles and aunts (we live in a joint fam­ily with my par­ents and broth­ers), to come and look at ev­ery­thing! He flit­ted from one item to the next, un­able to con­tain him­self, gush­ing over ev­ery sin­gle thing, “Look! There’s Mickey on my cake! There’s Mickey on the forks! Oh, a Mickey plate! Mumma dekho har cheez par Mickey hai!”

That day, Ayaan’s class­mates and teach­ers were treated to choco­lates that looked like lit­tle walk­ing Mick­eys. The evening’s cel­e­bra­tion had been set up to be a few hours of pure fun for kids and moth­ers alike. With dozens of prizes and re­turn gifts ready, no one would go home empty handed. Soon, even the moms found them­selves get­ting caught up in the spirit of cel­e­bra­tion as they joined in count­ing games and Dis­ney tam­bola. And when it was time to call it a night, each lit­tle guest went home with a per­son­alised Mickey frame with their own pho­tos. This was my way of en­sur­ing that each child would take a tan­gi­ble mem­ory of good times back with them.

Once the last of our guests had left, I saw Ayaan sit­ting in the mid­dle of the room. He was slightly bent over with tired­ness but his face still glowed from all the laughs he’d shared with fam­ily and friends. When he saw Seema and me stand­ing in one cor­ner, he rushed up to us and threw his lit­tle arms around us both. “Thank you so much Mumma, Papa. This was the best Mickey party ever!” In that very mo­ment, with just a hand­ful of words and a tight hug, lit­tle Ayaan washed away all my ex­haus­tion, all my lit­tle wor­ries about the clean up, to­mor­row’s work sched­ule, and ev­ery non-es­sen­tial nag­ging thought. In that mo­ment, it was just me, my wife, and my son bask­ing, in the warmth of be­ing with those we loved best, shar­ing the hap­pi­est times of our lives.

The true joy lay in be­ing in­volved from start to fin­ish, and that’s the kid of val­ues and up­bring­ing my own par­ents had blessed me with

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