Birthdays are so special. What makes them special – the gifts or the thought that goes into buying the gifts? In this story, Sushma finds out what is important.
That makes Birthday the word of the day!
A Birthday full of surprises
“What is today?” Amma peered at the calendar, “Oh! It is the 11th of November!” she said to herself, “ That means your birthday is just a week away Sushma!”
Sushma felt a thrill of excitement. She had forgotten her birthday and all the while it had been creeping up on her.
“Can you believe it Neelu?” Sushma said to her friend, “Only a week to my birthday! And this year, I am determined to find my Didi’s gifts before my birthday!”
Sharmi Didi usually gave her more than one gift, all of them lovely. “But how did you know I wanted this?” Sushma would cry.
“I knew it,” Sharmi Didi would say, “And so I bought it months ago!” Last year it had been a t-shirt she had admired in a shop, a watch she had drooled over in a mall and a smart backpack. Sushma had wondered, like every year, how Didi managed to hide the gifts so well.
“But why do you want to find the gifts before your birthday?” Neelu asked, “You are going to get them on your birthday! And aren’t surprises nice?”
“Yes,” Sushma agreed, “But this once I want to find Didi’s hiding place and prove that she’s not such an expert at hiding things!”
“You’ve a week to look!” Neelu said.
“Actually,” Sushma said, “Today is the perfect day to look – Amma is going out, Didi has an extra class and Papa will be home late!”
“That’s great!” Neelu grinned, “I’ll help you look – I am very good at finding things!”
“This year,” Sushma said with certainty, “I am going to have my birthday a week early!”
“Whew!” Sushma dropped into a chair, “Where could Didi have hidden the gifts?”
“Your sister is an expert!” Neelu flopped into a chair too. “We’ll never find the gifts!”
“Don’t say that,” Sushma said. “Let’s look again!”
So they did – pushing aside books, papers and clothes, even prying the lids off dabbas in the kitchen. They looked in the suitcases packed away under the beds, between books, behind furniture. Now they were in the bathroom and Neelu was peering into the cabinet there. “Come on Neelu,” Sushma said, disheartened. “There is no place to hide anything in that tiny cabinet!”
Neelu shut the cabinet with a sigh. “You are right,” she said. “There is nothing here where….” Her voice trailed away. “Sushma,” she said in a breathless voice, “Sushma!”
“What is it?” Sushma asked.
“Look,” Neelu said, “Look! The perfect hiding place!” Sushma followed her friend’s finger and saw the basket that held their dirty clothes.
“Do you seriously think Didi would hide the gifts among the dirty clothes?” she asked in surprise.
“We could look, right?” Neelu asked.
“But it is the dirty clothes basket!” Sushma protested.
“Just looking, Sushma,” Neelu said. “You are the one who wants to find the gifts before your birthday, right?”
That galvanized Sushma into action. “Come on,” she said, pulling off the lid of the basket, “let’s look!”
She pulled out the dirty clothes with Neelu urging her on. Sushma had almost reached the bottom of the basket now and was leaning over it. “I don’t think there is anything here,” she was saying, when her fingers touched something hard. Something that didn’t feel like clothes. She dug her hand deeper and distinctly heard the stiff crackling of a plastic bag. “I think,” she said, trying to keep the excitement out of her voice, “I think I’ve found them!”
Neelu screamed in triumph. Sushma’s hands closed on the handle of the bag, she pulled and with a loud crackling a bag shot out. “Look,” Sushma said in awe, holding it up. The plastic bag was full of things hidden by the roll of pretty wrapping paper, with silver stars and moons and meteors on a red background.
“Your Sharmi Didi obviously bought them sometime back,” Neelu said peeping into the bag. “And hid them here till she needed them. And what a pretty wrapping paper she has selected!”
“She chose red because she knows that is my favourite colour,” Sushma explained. Sushma thought of her Sharmi Didi secretly buying these gifts, spending hours looking for things that she would like. And then smuggling them into the house and looking around for a place to hide them till it was time to hand them over to Sushma.
“That is so thoughtful of her,” Neelu exclaimed.
Yes, it was, Sushma thought, it was very very thoughtful of Sharmi Didi. And here she was, looking for the gifts and planning to open them and find out what her sister was going to give her a week later.
“Sushma,” Neelu said, “why are you staring into that bag? Aren’t you going to open it and see what your Didi has bought you?”
“No,” Sushma said quietly. “I am not opening these gifts. I am leaving them for my birthday! I’ll open them on the 18th so that I will be really surprised!”
“But,” Neelu said, obviously surprised, “I thought you…”
“Yes,” Sushma admitted. “I did want to find out what she was going to give me. But now… now I don’t want to know. I just want to be given all these gifts on my birthday and feel truly lucky!”
“That is a great idea!” Neelu grinned.
And so Sushma carefully packed away the plastic bag with all her gifts under the load of dirty clothes she had pulled out.
And when a week later Sharmi Didi handed them to her, each one wrapped in the pretty red paper, Sushma was able to say, “But Didi, how did you know I wanted this?”
It was a special birthday filled with surprises. And Sushma enjoyed very one of them.
This story was published in Young Buzz, the children’s pages of Sakal Times.