I never paid much attention to my own birthdays. There is a question that I used to ask silently to myself, “What are birthdays but a mere passing of the years of your life?” That question stayed with me for a long time because I just simply never had it in me to underline the significance of my birthday to myself. I would attend some birthday parties, – and I even encouraged some birthday celebrations to be held for those remarkable souls I know; but it stops there. What I felt can may be summed up by a simple sentence : What have I done that is so significant to deserve a celebration ? None, nada, zilch.
Enter 12 July 2009. The night before, on my birthday eve, my wife took me out for a special dinner that she’s been planning for a quite some time. So I dragged my lazy bum out there, and deciding that I needed to appreciate what she did for me, I put on my batik shirt ( which I only wore once before in my whole life, by the way ), wore the best pair of shoes I have and went out for the night.
The dinner was great, mind you. I had probably one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my poor food repertoire of my life. Yet as I enjoyed it, my mind was always hard-wired to the fact that here I was, sitting demurely celebrating the best gift of my life, – which is my wife. See ? This was a typical method of mine in approaching birthdays. I counted all the blessings of my life and say a thankful prayer for them all. I just never happened to ponder, – let alone celebrate, my life per sé. It just never held a special significance for me.
Later on, we went to a dear friend’s place to have a game of scrabble. Little did I know that my wife had conspired with her and several other close friends to throw a surprise birthday shower for me. One by one they came unannounced, each with their own authentic ways to congratulate me on my first day of the new year. The hostess, for instance, has graciously given me a chance to go berserk in her personal library to pick books that I like as a birthday gift. Others bring their deliciously home-made delicacies that they know I like. One even had painstakingly gone his way to acquire a fresh bucket of real, live sunflowers for me. And as the night passed, I found myself slicing a birthday cake; thinking that on that very night, I must be the richest person in town to have wonderful friends like them.
The day after that, another beautiful soul braved the Jakarta traffic to come to my house and drop me a special birthday present, because she thought I deserved it. Her accompanying handwritten note reads as follows :
Happy Birthday, Fajar Jasmin
This small gift is nothing compared to the friendship I have received from you and your family. Still, I hope you would kindly accept this gift and I hope it can be of use for a great writer like you. Not much I can do to return all the kindness, but to pray for all the blessings to come upon your family.
Happy birthday to a very fine gentleman.
Happy birthday to a dear friend.
Happy birthday to a great brother.
My straw broke. That night, without anyone knowing, I shed some tear knowing that maybe I need to start to celebrate the life I have in me. To start relishing, – and cherishing, myself as a person. Not because I am a great man that have done many things in my life. Far from it, I need to start celebrating because no matter how severe my limitations may be, I can still refuse to buckle my knees to the pressure and inspire others.
You see, bad things do happen in our lives. Just recently, a terrible bombing incident hit the city I live in. As grievous as it is, I am taken aback by the fact that it is ultimately up to us to choose how we respond. It is up to us whether we will resort to unfruitful anger and blame game, or take it as a wake-up call to stand tall and do whatever we can to make sure that it won’t happen again.
So there you go. My birthday and the bombings. Two very different occasions that involve two very different emotional responses for me. Yet, they strike the same chord in my heart when I got reminded of the simple, but profound lines written not by Tolstoy or Dickens, but by Chumbawamba. So today, let us hold our chin up, defiant to whatever problems we have, and sing those lines with me :
I get knocked down, but I get up again;
You’re never gonna keep me down.
P.S. : Watch this space for an update for a link to the pics from my birthday celebration. Again, I’m lucky to have such friends.
UPDATE : Here is the link to my Pics Album of the Birthday Bash. Enjoy !