Let me admit this first – I personally don’t feel like celebrating my birthday and on the D-day I always keep a very low profile. This is because I feel there is nothing significant about birthdays and with age this view of mine is getting stronger (I know there are positive ways of looking at it, but for now I am reluctant to try them).
However this year I had a new person in my life – my wife, Ramya. For both of us each other’s birthday was special firstly because it is the first one with each other and secondly we were far away from our families. Hence there was this desire to do something on that day so that we make the other person special.
Incidentally we both are Leos and share birthdays in the same month of August separated by just 2 weeks. First in line was my birthday and even though I wanted to keep it very low profile Ramya got surprise gifts and a cake, all without my knowledge and we had midnight celebrations. I really appreciated the fact that she managed to do all this without my awareness, this takes up higher significance if I consider the limitations she had – her limited knowledge of whereabouts of London and hectic commute for her daily work. It was a very nice occasion. She did set the benchmark for me, if I opted to take it on.
One week passed and I did not think too much into it. Enter week 2 and I put the thinking cap on. I planned one of the nicest gifts for her and contacted her brother, Hari to execute the same. Once we agreed to the plan, it was game on. I planned for other smaller gifts in parallel and set off executing things accordingly. Finally, with all the planning and effort I did manage to give her the below gifts, in the order of their importance (lowest being the first). She was blown away by all of them coming her way when she least expected it.
1st one was a chocolate cake. This was an easy choice as she liked chocolate a lot. However lot of effort was spent in getting it the previous day without her knowledge and hiding it in the fridge.
2nd one was a cute doll (soft sitting bear) which was offering a heart with words ‘Love you Loads’. This was an accidental choice in place of a greeting card. Greeting card I am sure will warm the cupboard but for few extra bucks, this was a way better choice.
Anything beyond these gifts needed me to use bit more of my lazy brain.
3rd one was 25 unexpected wishes from 25 different folks as it was her 25th birthday. For this I sent emails to numbers of my friends whom she did not know or did not expect a wish from. I sent an email well in advance with my wife's email id and a small drafted content (for those lazy ones) to help them in wishing her. Few of them did, and some of them did more than expected (special thanks to them). The target of 25 was missed but never the less the unexpected wishes did make its mark.
4th was a surprise eat out with Close Friends – After arriving to UK, we had built a small circle of close friends outside our work circle. I invited 6 of these folks to join us at our regular eat out without Ramya's knowledge. All of the folks were told well in advance with timings, location and the way event should happen. I wanted to make it look accidental to Ramya but I could not hold on to the secret as almost all folks did not arrive in time. However once we all met, it was a very good time together.
5th was being on top of London on London Eye – After the party with folks I took her saying ‘oh! There is more time’. She had no clue where we were going and all along I said, let’s go with the flow and see. When we got near to London eye,
I said ‘wow, let’s go in that’.
She was like ‘What? It costs hell lot and you always said before that it is not worth it’.
I said ‘Today is special and I feel like going in that’
She did not question again and went to buy tickets. However I had planned for this by going for a Merlin annual pass (unlimited entry to multiple attractions including London eye). It also meant that we did not have to wait in queue for tickets and we were onto the eye quite soon. It was an amazing experience to see London in the nights from the London eye.
6th was wishes from whom it Matters, when it mattered. Though this has been mentioned last, this was one of the first gifts she got in the day. This was the special one which she cherished the most. This was the web cam wishes from her mom and brother at 12 AM GMT local time (4.30 AM India time). This one was a very well timed gift considering the various aspects. What are they? Read on..
For Ramya, who lived for 24 odd years close to her parents it was obviously very tough to relocate far from them in London with me. The insensitive piece of me did not sense this at all and she being such a nice person did not utter a word about it as she did not want to bother me with it. Since her arrival to UK 3 months back she was missing her family a lot and I wanted to gift something to help her out.
So I thought of web cam. This was not a completely unexpected thing. Me and Ramya had discussed to get a web cam so many times in the past but did not manage to get it (which gave me this opportunity). I first checked with Hari and he was all keen to do this. So me and Hari both got webcams and got the set up done. We interacted couple of times over phone and email to know the progress we are making.
I got a Logitech webcam which looked great. I did the install and tried firing it up with Yahoo Messenger. Bang! It blanked out with YM and I was left with only option of asking the Guru Google for solution. I found out that the web cam model I got had some issues with YM and it was advised to use Skype. With my fingers crossed I tried it with Skype and it worked like magic. All this made me bit apprehensive about how it will all go on the D-day as one small thing not working will derail the plan and impact significantly.
On the night of Birthday, we had to attend Indian version of Guru’s Leaving drinks. Ramya was on a job which made her travel for long hours. This meant that I have an opportunity to come home and do the final test. So I came early from office and tested the webcam chat with Hari. Initially Hari's words were not coming through but then after few checks we were all done and it was working perfectly fine. It was wonderful to see the results (Yes, I am talking like webcam was my invention or seeing it for the first time). I was very excited to see how Ramya will react to this. I asked Hari to log in around 5 minutes before 12 AM (his 4.30 AM) and give me a missed Call. He promised to get Mom-in-law to be awake and ready as well.
Once everything was ready I went to party, picked up Ramya on my way to the party (by which I ensured she doesn’t come home before mid night). Party was good; it went all fine and we arrived home at 11:30 PM, bit earlier than expected. I tried to delay it a bit but could not. So I had to take her directly to the room asking her not to enter the hall. She wanted to check emails and I said NO (as few of the 25 wishes had already come and I wanted her to see them after 12). She was ok to wait which helped me to do final set up.
It was 5 minutes to go and I got the missed call. Even though I had kept the phone in silent mode, she noticed it and asked ‘who is that?’ I said it was my project mate and I will call him tomorrow. After a minute or so I asked her to stay back and I went in. I booted up the computer, logged into Skype. Hari and mom-in-law were ready and waiting, I whispered to Hari to be around and wait (as Ramya was playing songs she did not hear this). I got the bear doll next to it and the cake from the fridge. I got all of them hidden under different towels covers.
When the time arrived, I called her to the hall, wished her first. I told her to guess the 3 gifts in front of her. I kept 3 notes in front of each one of them to help her guess. They being 'It’s Sweet like you' (in front of Cake), 'It’s Cute like you' (in front of bear doll) and 'It’s Just like you' (in front of laptop).
I was so excited that I could not wait too much for her to answer for the first two. For the last one, I said her to guess considering that this gift cannot be measured in Money. Ramya was clueless, so after a pause she took the cover off to find Hari and her Mom staring at her. All three months she interacted with them on phone, saw them on photos but now she is seeing and hearing them real, live. She could not believe it. She spoke to them for 15-20 minutes and asked them to go to sleep. After that she wept in my arms. For us it was the best day of our marriage life.