Happy Birthday!

A Novel in Two Books
by N. K. Johel

Yep, it's my birthday today - Happy Birthday to me!  Birthdays are usually fairly quiet for me, but this morning I got a call from my cousin offering to buy me a 'birthday breaky' before she went to work. She works close by, so it's convenient for both of us. Half an hour later my husband and I met her at the restaurant, bleary-eyed and hungry. And there was a great deal on - two breakfast items for $2.00 each?  Bonus! We all decided to have the same thing: Eggs, sausages, toast and pancakes!  Pancakes first.

The best part was having time to reconnect after many years of being busy with our lives. At first, I thought it was me, but I think the world has changed an awful lot. We now have so much opportunities, and tools to do interesting things that we forget to reconnect.

After my cousin left to go to work, I walked home, realizing I hadn't had time to look at my birthday wishes on Facebook. Over the last five years I've enjoyed finding a good word from friends and acquaintances on my wall during my birthday.  Say what you will about social media, it's been a good thing in my life. If you're a writer it is - for the most part - a solitary existence. I'm glad that people have taken a moment to click on my birthday notifications and sent a brief message. Social media and technology can seems so impersonal, but it also allows us to reach out and touch someone in this increasingly fast-paced world that often leaves a lot of people feeling disconnected.

As of 10 PM tonight, I counted ninety Birthday wishes. Last year I had about fifty.  The year previous it was about twenty. More and more people are finding this as a valid way to keep in touch.

I often hear people say, that it isn't the same. Being there, in person, is more meaningful - more real."

I don't know...

I've seen what happens when people who get locked into a cycle of obligation. I've seen them treat special occasions more like a chore - or a nightmare they have to get through. People keep tallies. Who came? How much are 'we' getting compared to what 'they' got on their occasions?

As is anything that has to do with human beings, it gets complicated.

To illustrate this point in

Bollywood Storm

, the character Karishma Chawla, Bollywood's Top-Top leading sweetheart, is at a huge birthday bash that her mother, Rita Chawla, puts together for her every year. Rita invites everyone who is anyone in the Bollywood scene, and - because of who she is - people are obligated to put in an appearance. Karishma tries to be grateful for the work her mother puts into making sure she's has a successful career. She is aware that she is privileged and feels she has a duty to the Indian public by upholding the example of a good and chaste woman.

She also knows the other side of it. The 'wanna-be' actors and actresses who stream into Mumbai daily and struggle to pursue their Bollywood dreams. She knows she hasn't had struggle and be subjected to the corruption of the Bollywood casting couches to get where she is.

But I like Karishma. She's a good kid. Even though she is aware, there isn't much she can do. Rita and the Bollywood cartel have control over her life. In an effort to give back, Karishma uses her influence to spearhead an organization that supports a worthy environmental cause.

On the surface, Karishma has all that anyone could ever want. Fame, fortune, and being married to a top-top Bollywood leading man. But, behind her smiles and graciousness, she is not a happy person. She is caught up in on an elaborate merry-go-round on which she, and everyone else on it, is smiling but have stopped having fun long ago.

It looks fun.

But it's not quite the ideal life we imagine.

Is it?

But then comes the moment at the party when everyone begins to sing

Happy Burrday

to Karishma. As she stands on stage and looks out into the darkened convention hall, she sees the flames of many lighters going on, one by one around her. For that moment, it seems, even the preening superstars, the inebriated and high minor actors, the powerful producers and directors of all types transcend their obligation or personal agendas. For a moment there is a genuine sense of affection for Karishma and who she really is.

I wish I could remember the name of the movie the "Happy Burrday Song" comes from.

I remember it was a fun sing when I was a kid.

That's Burrday - not Birthday!

So, getting back to my birthday, if you so desire, feel free to go out and enjoy a dessert of your choice in my name. Salute!N.K. Johel