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
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