Lets reboot the Indian tradition of forced bankruptcy on your birthday

A Birthday Cake With Candles Burning Dollars
Image courtesy: Sandra Schön

Birthdays are very cool when you’re a kid. Your parents will get you a gift, new clothes and a packet of sweets to distribute in school. Every school kid in India looks forward to their ‘happy birthday’ and some of the spoiled ones have several in a year. Other kids and teachers will give you a free pass throughout the day because you’re a special little snowflake for a day.

Fast forward to when you’re an adult. Calendars synced to Facebook lets the whole world know that it’s your day but you get only a handful of calls. Your email inbox has an automated mail from your bank wishing you a good day, just above the one telling you how abysmally low your savings account balance is and another one telling you how much you owe them. And there’s a text from your friend asking you if you are on the other side of 30 yet. Yeah, real special day. But the real problems start when you head out of the house.

As soon as someone hears its your birthday, even if you’ve known them for like 3 hours, they’ll pump both fists in the air and yell “treat!!”. Heads turn and soon you’re buying a whole group of people lunch or dinner. Then you meet another group of people and go through the same thing all over again. If you don’t ‘treat’ a group, someone is sure to call you a miser, cheapo or uncle. Unfortunately, the credit card company doesn’t let you off the hook because it’s your birthday and neither will your landlord, so you suck it up, embrace bankruptcy and make a note to yourself to take your birthday off Facebook next year.

Nobody seems to realize that maybe they are being an asshole to somebody on their birthday. You survived another year of global warming and runaway capitalism and that somehow makes you liable to pay for everybody’s drinks? You’re not the only one with skin in the game either. Every one of those people who demanded an offering on your birthday will go through the same thing later in the year. In fact, you’ll make sure of it. It’s a never ending revenge cycle that only works out well for pubs and bars. You’re all spokes on a wheel. This one’s on top, then that one’s on top, and on and on it spins, crushing everyone on the ground, year after year after year.

Let’s reinvent this bloody custom. Next time if it’s somebody’s birthday, or they got a job or whatever, don’t demand a pound of flesh. Offer to buy them a drink instead. They’ll think you actually give a damn and want to celebrate their day. I proposed this new custom a couple of times when somebody said its their birthday and none of them hated me for it. The reactions usually went from shock to a genuine smile when they realized they’ll be a year older and have a bank balance. It makes total economic sense for everybody. If a group of 5 or 10 people pay for one person, its just 20% or 10% added to your own expense. You’ll probably pay as much in service charge (if you don’t know how to stand up for your rights but thats another blog post altogether). If you don’t sign up for the new tradition, you’re sure to pay 5 X or 10X your bill once  a year. Now some of you math whizzes are wondering- if everyone in a group of 10 pays for every other member once a year, doesn’t that add up to the same amount? Well it does, but you’re forgetting that the number of people who want to buy you dinner is considerably lesser than the number of people who would let or make you buy theirs. There’s also the added advantage that you’ll be able to find out who among your friends want to make you feel good instead of themselves.

If you’re convinced, spread the word and do unto others as you wish others do unto you.

To a day when we can all wake up to a new year of our lives and actually look forward to the first day of it.

Lets break that damn wheel.

(5 karma points if you got the spokes on a wheel reference)

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