There was a time when having a party at home meant hopping down to the nearby booze shop and stocking on enough alcohol. Food was ordered from outside and everyone focused very diligently on getting as drunk as possible in as short a span as one could muster. Ah, those were the days, I think to myself as I wipe away a silent tear borne of reminiscence.
I dithered over whether to throw a party for Adi's third birthday. It's in May but something tells me this May inviting a bunch of pre-schoolers for an evening of boisterous fun and object-flinging will be the last thing on my mind. But then, he has been seeing a lot of parties lately as his classmates turn three and have parties and mothering is nothing but free guilt-trips. So that is how, full-term pregnant, I decided to brave the heat of Mumbai and throw a party anyway.
Unknown to us, a quiet revolution has been taking place. These small kids, the ones who cannot chew their food and cannot dress themselves and have trouble controlling their bladders, they are serious party animals. What else would explain that there are professionals waiting to take everything from gubbare phulana to cake bake karna off one's hands? The party supplies shop on Hill Road has a roaring side business in party organization. He can arrange magicians and tattoo artists and jugglers and can doubtless conjure Disneyland on one's building terrace at the right price. When we went there to buy balloons, he told us he could organize all the balloons we wanted without anybody's cheeks needing to ache.
Tempting offer but we declined.
We bought a hand-held pump instead.
I did not want to hire a venue either, having seen the tiny space that is given out in the name of party venues in Bandra. So I decided to expose my house to the three-year old elements.
Once we had decided to hold the party in our apartment, trusty Pramod was enlisted to help with the balloons and streamers. We went with the highly innovative theme of red and white. It looked rather pretty, I thought.
How will we entertain the kids, asked the husband. Uh, I was hoping they will sort of just play or something, I offered. Oh no, he countered, you need to give them something to do. Ok, let's call a puppeteer, I volunteered. Adi's class had recently been taken to a puppet show and he could not contain his excitement later on so I thought it would be nice to have this special treat for him in his party. Well, that was before I found out that in this season puppeteers in Bombay have busier schedules than Priyanka Chopra. One after the other turned me down and anyway the rates they charge made me immediately want to shift professions and learn to handle the ropes.
Call a magician, said Mahesh. One of M's lasting loves from childhood is magic shows. It's not your birthday party, it's the child's, I reminded him. He looked quite crestfallen. Oh ok, I will call a magician then, I gave in. Fortunately, magicians are lower in the party value chain and I was able to get hold of one that agreed to turn up and pull rabbits out of his hat.
Then we pulled out an inflatable kiddy pool and filled it up with balloons. The original plan was to fill it up with balls of all sizes but the prices of stupid, colourful, China-made plastic balls made me feel a little dizzy. We threw in some gifts too, so the kids could have something of a treasure hunt once they were in there.
The kids turned up and seemed to have a ball. Much noisy fun was had in the inflatable pool and the tattoo lady and the balloon sculptor fellow both felt quite neglected and after some time retired to the master bedroom to watch the IPL match. No, I am serious.
My mom is in town so food was not a problem because while you would not be able to tell it looking at me, my mom is one of those Supermoms who whip up delicacies for 40-odd people, make party favours with their own hands and look ravishing just before the guests arrive. Very high standards, if you ask me and I have done well by never, ever trying to match them. There were all sorts of starters and chhole and poori and sookhe aloo and dahi bade and pasta and custard and jelly and a cake with a little Ferrari car on top. The last seemed to delight Adi and the other kids no end and it was worth the bundle it cost, I think. They all wanted to 'eat the car' and the wheels specially were very much in demand, for some reason.
Much fun was also had with the khoi bag with squeals accompanying the burst of confetti and gifts on the kids. Adi got quite startled by it though given that he was standing right underneath and had a meltdown soon after.
We gave Tulika books and wooden toys as return presents and bought them from Comet Media Foundation, a Mumbai-based non-profit organization that produces educational resources. I am still to get feedback on that but I rather hope that they will be appreciated in the sea of Fisher-Price and Disney products that our kids are drowning in. I bought some other toys for Adi from there too, a taraazu (balance) complete with little baats (weights) and a Kutch doll and a wooden engine.
Throwing a party for even a small child is full of time-consuming shopping trips and what seems like unnecessary expense and a host of decisions regarding just about everything. It's the morning after and I feel hung-over.
Looks like some things don't change after all.