Happy Birthday, again

2014

Arsalan sat reading “The Source” when he heard his sister pushing the buttons on her mobile phone and then putting it to her ear.

“Yes, this is Mr. Ahmad’s place … Yes, um, I would like to have the bouncy castle … Exactly, that’s the one … Oh, um, we shall need it on the 21st of January … Thank you.”

Anya ended the call and threw her head back, “One done.”
“Why did you order that?” Arsalan inquired, his eyebrows raised.
“You know why. My son is turning five”, she snapped.
“God, why don’t you people ever think rationally?” he said exasperatedly, “Why do you celebrate the fact that you have one year less to live? And even bring presents for the happiness of it all! It’s all so very illogical. Think about it Anya.”
“It’s just an excuse for fun”, she rolled her eyes, “Be a good sport.”
“But have you ever questioned where this ‘fun’ came from? Have you never wondered at all?”
“You do it, you seem to be enough for the two of us”, Anya said, annoyed.
“Why did God ever give you a brain?” Arsalan shot back.
“Hey, we don’t have those kinds of intentions”, she replied.
“But on the day we’re raised, we’re going to be asked how we spent our time! How we spent our money! Will you tell God, ‘It was only harmless fun and getting together with family’?” Arsalan said.
“He’s forgiving”, Anya grew irritated, and rang the bells to summon the servant.
“Yes, He forgives when we actually listen to Him. We aren’t allowed to follow traditions of past people, especially pagans either”, Arsalan continued, “Why can’t we start bringing some sense, question what we follow and follow it not because of society, but because we believe it’s true?”
A servant entered and stood by Anya’s side.
“Yes, madam?” the servant deferentially asked.
“Next week is Shehryar’s birthday. Take out the chocolate fountain, and remember to pick up the Woody the Cowboy cake”, she ordered, “Don’t forget the clown and all the other arrangements I spoke to you about. Get Aliya to mow the gardens evenly and sweep the play area.”
“Yes, madam”, the servant bowed his head.
“For now, get me a glass of water”, with that she dismissed him, and took a breath.
“There’s no concept religiously”, he murmured, picking up his book.
“And since when did you become so religious? Besides, Arsalan, nobody cares about whatever concepts there are, and our social class requires we do this”, Anya carelessly flipped her hair, “What will people think?”
“You care about people? People make up all sorts of stories. If society jumps off a cliff, we don’t commit suicide.”
“This is hardly suicide”, Anya scoffed.
“Then what is it? Show-off? Pride at being rich?”
“No, it’s just fun”, Anya stubbornly resisted with stern eyes.
“If you know where this fun comes from, how are you still willing? There’s so many other ways of having fun”, Arsalan reasoned, “I mean, you’re planning this a week in advance, what’s the sense in that?”
Anya rolled her eyes and left the room.
  *      *        *        *        *
“Sir, could you please lend me five thousand rupees?” Maryam, the Christian cook, asked Arsalan as he watered his garden. He loved his plants, and preferred to take care of them himself instead of handing them over to the servants.
“Is everything okay? You got your pay cheque last week”, Arsalan was confused
“Well, you see, my son is also turning five, and he insists on a party. You must understand, sir, there is a lot of social pressure these days”, she answered looking at his shoes. Arsalan sighed.
“Why do you celebrate birthdays anyway?” He asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Because, sir, a child enters a new year!” She spoke enthusiastically, “You people celebrate it too, and if Jesus’ birthday is celebrated, it must be a good thing!”
“Maryam, a year of a child’s life ends”, he explained earnestly, “And Jesus never celebrated his birthday. In fact, Christmas isn’t even his birthday. His disciples never did so either.”
“Honestly?” Maryam was genuinely surprised.
“Yes. You don’t have to succumb to social pressures; people do all sorts of strange things. You should do what you know to be right. Do you believe this to be right?” Arsalan spoke in a calm, amiable way.
“The way you put it, sir, things would be so easier of everyone understood this”, Maryam replied with a tone of interest.
“Do you understand?”
“Absolutely, sir”, Maryam humbly said.
“Even in my religion, there is no such concept. Birthdays were a pagan rite before Judaism, Christianity and Islam were revealed, and all three religions do not allow the practice of rites followed by the unguided before them”, Arsalan smiled at her, “But of course, your son is unable to understand. Here’s some money, but make sure you tell him one day.”
Maryam pocketed the money saying gratefully, “Sir, thank you, I shall return it as soon as possible.”
“Don’t return it, keep it. I wouldn’t like you to be in that difficulty.”
                                      *        *        *        *        *
Arsalan was visibly upset. He had never before realized the effect they, the wealthy, had on the poor. How the poor tried so hard to follow the footsteps of the upper class and make the same mistakes they did. When they could not do so, they watched with anger, envy and a sense of injustice as people spent thousands of thousands enjoying all sorts of fancy parties and posh dinners. It was cruel.
He hadn’t been able to find a religious point justifying these parties either. The only two things nearest to signifying birthdays were – at ten years, it was obligatory to perform prayers, and the Prophet Muhammad used to fast each Monday (the day he was born) as a thanks to God that he had been sent to guide humans. None of the Holy Books even mentioned the birthdays of the prophets.
Then why did the populace celebrate birthdays? Worst of all, why wouldn’t they accept the truth?
                                      *        *        *        *        *
Encyclopedia Judaica: “The celebration of birthdays is unknown in traditional Jewish ritual.” (vol. 4, pg. 1054)
Christianity: “Therefore ye shall keep mine ordinance, that ye not commit any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus, 18:29-30)
Islam: “You would follow the ways of those who came before you step by step to such an extent that if they were to enter a lizard’s hole, you would enter it too.”

That is why I donot celebrate birthdays.

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