By Vijay Shah
You have probably landed on this blog post wondering why I would go to the length of writing an article saying that there is something special about the 4th of October. Well, to most people it is just another day in the calendar. Another long dreary few hours at work, or doing the housework. The usual stress, the usual headaches, the usual ‘life’s got to go on’.
For me however, the 4th day of the tenth month of the year has a very personal and special importance. It happens to be the day of my birth.
On the 4th of October, 1984 – at around 11:00 am, in the now-closed maternity ward of the Barking Hospital in Essex, I left the sanctuary of my mother’s womb and inhaled my first breath of the chlorine flavoured air in the big bad world.
I do like birthday parties. There is an excitable buzz about getting dressed up/suited and booted, driving down to the party place with some friends and/or family and gorging yourself silly on birthday cake, crisps, snacks, trifle etc. Then there is the inescapable compulsion to dance strangely to that ‘Celebration’ song from the Seventies – which is ubiquitous for birthday bashes here in London. The alcohol or soft drinks flow freely and the drunken uncles and dads never fail to abysmally outperform each other in the terrible body-popping competitions.
Normally I tend not to make a big deal about my birthday. Mainly because when I was a child, I never had a birthday party really. My father was not bothered about organising a party to celebrate his son’s birth, but then, he never was particularly that bothered about his son. My first celebration was when I turned eight at the women’s refuge where we ended up at. I received with unbridled joy my first ever birthday presents (unfortunately, I do not remember what they were) and there was a gorgeous sponge cake specially made for me. The other children in the refuge, Upkar and her brother Brahmy, Arjun, and the other women living and working there (Serpil, Narinder, Dipa, Ruby, Gina, Zara etc) alongside my amazing family – helped truly make my eighth year in this life special. By and large, they were wonderful people and I have never forgotten them.
Twenty years later, I am now at the grand old age of 28. This year, 2012, my birthday fell on a Thursday – which was the day I was born on incidentally. I kept it a a low-key affair as one of my family was meant to go into UCL Hospital for a scan because she had very high blood pressure and leg pains. As a result, I was worrying about her a lot, and that worry did dampen the mood significantly.
On the day itself, I was at my day job. As a treat for my team, I picked up a deep rich chocolate cake from the Sainsbury’s beneath our office which set me back just over £5. It had to be one of the richest, tastiest and heaviest cakes I have ever had the fortune to grace my lips. Just layers of thick chocolate buttercream and fondant. The chocolate sponge between those layers must have felt very insignificant. I really enjoyed that cake…the only thing that would have topped it was seeing it baked by Nigella Lawson in a little black dress. That would have made my day right there.
In my office, we have this birth anniversary tradition, where an empty envelope is passed around to everyone at their desks. They put in what spare silver change or pound coins they can spare, and later, at lunchtime someone is nominated to go out and purchase a small gift or two. Anyone who adds a 1-penny or 2-pence piece is instantly sent into exile or more likely, gains an unsavoury reputation as a ‘cheapskate’. For the girls, the ‘cadeaux du jour’ are usually earrings or other jewellery and bath sets, scarfs sometimes. For the guys, the standard is aftershave sets or clothes. It is really heartwarming to receive little gifts like that from your colleagues. I received a Next Custom Blend No. 1 set of eau de toilette, facial moisturiser and a shampoo/shower gel thang. It was a quality present; elegant in all the right places. The product even self-described as “a custom blend of precious woods, warm amber and aromatic spices”. That will keep any sneaking body odours at bay!
Next day, Friday, was a little get-together at my sister’s place with some mutual friends, brother and brother-in-law. Her Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, Zeus, jumpstarted the festive vibe by escaping from his room in the back of my sister’s kitchen. He charged into the living room and devoured a cupcake that had been left out for my niece. Within a minute, little Zeus had ended that cupcake’s existence. My niece was not pleased.
It was a little celebration, with a little chocolate cake complete with traditional candles and Party Poppers exploding everywhere. I also got a dinner treat: my sister’s special homemade chicken & potato curry – the best in the business. I cannot get enough of my sister’s cooking. Her lamb keema curry (‘keema’ is mincemeat) has to be tasted to be believed. I spent the rest of the evening sitting around with everyone in the kitchen, twitching and getting paranoid because I could see them plotting to surround me and give me ‘birthday beats’.
That is the best thing about birthdays. They are your own unique celebration, a moment that is special and dear to you. The best way to spend them, in my opinion anyway, is in the company of the people who care for you the most – friends and family. It is nice to feel and be the centre of attention, even for a modest, behind-the-scenes fellow like me. It just leaves you with a warm and fuzzy glow inside. Even if your nearest and dearest give you a ribbing – “you’re a granddad now”.
Just to round this limited-edition birthday post on the Half-Eaten Mind here is a list of events that took place on the 4th October 1984:
- Elena Katina, singer/songwriter from Russia was born on this day as well. She used to be a member of the band T.A.T.U.
- Also born on this day was the US Major League Baseball player Drew Stubbs. A very productive player, he currently plies his trade with the Cincinnati Reds.
- Tim Macartney-Snape and his associate Greg Mortimer become the first Australians to climb and reach the summit of Mount Everest/Chomolumgma in the Himalayas.
- The government of the United States of America closes down due to budgeting problems.
- “I Just Called to Say I Love You” by US singer Stevie Wonder makes it to the top of the UK pop music charts.
- Hurricane Polo strikes the coast of Baja California, a peninsula off Mexico’s western coast.
- The rapist and killer Victor Dewayne Taylor, who slaughtered 2 students from the Trinity High school in Louisville USA, was apprehended by local police after a week-long manhunt. He was sentenced to death two years later.
- “Sambad”, the largest circulating vernacular newspaper in India’s Orissa state begins trading for the first time. Sambad was the first publication to use offset printing technology and revolutionised the Oriya-language newspaper industry.
- The Abu Musa organisation, a group of terrorists, detonates a car bomb in the grounds of the Israeli embassy in the Cyprus capital, Nicosia. The building sustains heavy damage, but no fatalities are reported at that time.
“Lena Katina” – Wikipedia LINK
“1984” – Wikipedia LINK
“Today in History for 4th October 1984” – HistoryOrb LINK
“October 4th, 1984…Today is Thursday” – Kakorama/Kakophone LINK
“Hurricane Polo – October 1-4, 1984” – Nat’l Weather Service Hydrometeorological Prediction Center LINK
“Drew Stubbs” – Wikipedia LINK
“Victor Dewayne TAYLOR” – Juan Ignacio Blanco, Murderpedia LINK:
Orissa Sambad LINK
“Suspected Lebanese Terrorist Arrested in Limassol – Report” – Sarah Fenwick, CyprusNewsReport LINK
“Funny B-Day Cakes” Funniest Corner/GRUKAR LINK