– By RAJEEV GOWDA
Today is Rahul Gandhi’s birthday. But Rahul is not in Delhi. He has taken off for a well-deserved holiday abroad. He has thus managed to stay away from the crowds of well-wishers who would have otherwise shown up at Congress headquarters and found different ways to demonstrate their affection on this, his special day.
Down south in Bangalore, on this occasion, I attended a function organized by our dynamic Youth Congress General Secretary Venkatesh Gowda. It involved the Congress party adopting a government school around the corner from where I live, planting trees, installing a flagpole, and distributing free uniforms to poor children. From the sense one gets of Rahul, he would probably appreciate this kind of constructive activity more than the distribution of sweets and the bursting of crackers to celebrate his birthday.
This is such a pleasant contrast to the extravagances of certain other Indian leaders. Just some months ago, we were treated to the horror story of an engineer being beaten to death by an MLA. His crime: he had not contributed enough to help that MLA meet the monetary target set by his party’s supremo for her birthday gifts.
Over the years, I’ve seen some significant variations in how birthdays are celebrated. While growing up in India, when I was in school and college, on my birthday it was my duty to “treat” my friends to a meal or a party. And I typically got “bumps” in exchange for my kindness.
But once I got to America, I discovered that people celebrate birthdays quite differently. Rather than the birthday boy throwing the party, his friends get together and host a rollicking party for him. And it gets really fun when it’s a surprise!
The other thing they do in America is open the gifts right away. Right in front of everybody. That leads to a lot of fun comments as people pick on each other’s curious tastes or even more peculiar notions of generosity.
My other big discovery in terms of birthday practices happened as my children grew up. It turns out that every child who attends the birthday parties we organize for our children, Vaibhav and Rishika, has to get a “return gift.” Sharmila, my wife, can tell you what a challenge it is to pick the right, innovative return gift. These kids have high standards and expectations. And rather than being shy or diplomatic, they convey their approval or disapproval with alacrity.
Now, while we think that Rahul is enjoying a quiet, private birthday in some temperate clime, he’s not actually left the rest of us out. Reflect on the fact that he’s actually given Congress fans, and all Indians, an unparalleled present this year. Yes, I’m talking about the UPA government’s success in the polls. A big part of that is his doing. His insistence on going it alone in UP was alone enough to prevent the big birthday bash celebrating statuetory supremo from taking over India.
Now how do we come up with a return gift to match that?